Margaret Perry Movies

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Men In Black III

A longtime fan of Will Smith and the MEN IN BLACK movies, I was so thrilled to hear about this third installment to the saga! In this MIB adventure, Agent J (Smith) must travel back in time to stop Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones/Josh Brolin) from getting killed by an angry escapee alien named Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement). J is also on his own personal mission to try to figure K out, to get into his head and find out why they never talk about personal things together. Throughout the film, J subtly tries to get in K’s head to find out what makes him tick. Read the rest of this entry »


Dark Shadows

Despite a rotten Rotten Tomatoes rating of only 42%, Tim Burton‘s Dark Shadows is still a lot of fun for fans of Burton/Depp collaborations. The film has all the earmarks of a usual Burton/Depp production, though it falls short of being a masterpiece. Tim Burton‘s other half, Helena Bonham Carter makes her appearance as the family’s gin-swilling, gerascophobic psychiatrist. There is also the expected amount of blood, dark eye shadow, and shabby-chic costuming that accompanies a Burton flick. But it is the silky smooth dialogue, and the delivery of same by Johnny Depp, which prevents this movie from slipping into the realms of pure kitsch.

Depp plays Barnabas Collins, a member of the founding family of a Maine sea port, who has been transformed into a vampire and buried in a steel coffin by a jealous witch, Angelique (Eva Green). Barnabas is accidentally recovered from the grave by some construction men and finds himself in 1972. Returning to his family’s estate, he discovers that the family business has been all but ruined thanks to the diabolical manipulations of the ageless Angelique. As Barnabas attempts to defeat his arch enemy once and for all, he falls in love with the family’s nanny, Vicky, the spitting image of his long lost Josette (Bella Heathcote), wooing her with his outdated honeyed phrases. “A name like Victoria is so beautiful,” he purrs in his plummy British accent, ”that I could not bear to part with a single syllable of it.”

Barnabas’ innate “uncoolness,” as describes by Entertainment Weekly, is what ironically makes him cool in the eyes of both the hippies in the film, and the modern audience of hipsters, for whom all things uncool are in fact the coolest of all. It’s this sort of philosophy that can sustain this film through all its faults. There are too many side stories which distract from the main thrust of the plot. There’s a certain amount of gore and sex, but scenes containing these elements are in no way innovative or especially clever in their execution. For fans of Burton/Depp comedy, the script does not fail to tickle the funny-bone, but the jokes are campy at best.

Michelle Pfeiffer as Elizabeth Collins
Johnny Depp and Eva Green
The female characters in this film fall short in passing the Bechdel Test. If they ever speak to each other, it’s only about a male character, usually Barnabas (with the exception of the brief interview with the new nanny). Or they’re at each other’s throats for one reason or another. And the characterizations of the women are far from progressive. The one female character with any power is, as is so often the case in Disney movies, the villainess. She is portrayed much more as a sexualized character than as an intelligently worthy opponent. Another woman character is an insecure alcoholic. One is an escaped lunatic. Another is a teenage brat who doesn’t have a nice thing to say to anybody. The only woman with any semblance of strength, the family matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), is still dependent on an undead ancestor to restore the family business to its former glory. Although she is clearly an intelligent, hard-working, and caring mother, she is necessarily unable to take care of her family without a man’s guidance.

All-in-all, Dark Shadows was worth the price of the ticket. It’s dialogue is witty, it’s accurately nostalgic, and there are enough elements of Tim Burton‘s classic style to make it more interesting than your average early-summer flick. It’s definitely not for kids; wait for Burton’s pending Frankenweenie later in the summer. But if you’ve got a bored Sunday afternoon to spend on an off-beat sort of movie, go ahead and check it out.

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Avenging Women

“If I don’t get pants, nobody gets pants!”

My roommate found this infographic online and showed it to me and she and I had a good laugh about it. But then it struck me that it would actually be funnier if it were more true. The top pie chart says women won’t like The Avengers because it has a sexy woman in it, while the bottom chart illustrates how women will like the movie because it has a lot of hot guys in it. Both paint a rather limited, and inaccurate, view of how women view movies.

I saw The Avengers with a group of girl friends and we really enjoyed the movie. We thought it was hilarious, had a deep, meaningful story, and we loved the running, jumping, blowing things up. Sure, we noticed the hot biceps and chiseled features of the super-heroes, but it certainly wasn’t the reason we enjoyed the film as a whole. If the men had been ugly, but all the other elements were in place, we probably would have still liked the film. Conversely, if the men had been hot but the movie crap, we would have walked out of the theatre. We cannot have a double standard, expecting men to stop being turned on by objectified female characters while we simultaneously swoon over the male physique on screen. It isn’t fair for either gender.

Cobie Smulders as
Agent Maria Hill

That said, let us take a look at how women were portrayed in The Avengers. First of all, it does not pass the Bechdel Test. There are two women in the movie and I don’t remember them ever speaking to each other. The first is Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders of How I Met Your Mother). Apparently she actually used to be head of S.H.I.E.L.D. but in this movies she’s basically Captain Fury’s second. Then there’s the only female super-hero, the Black Widow played by Scarlett Johansson. Although neither woman fills a sexually objectified role in the film, neither woman is in a position of leadership either. They both wear tight-fitting black uniforms which show off their curves, but I must admit it could me so much worse. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Johansson described the traditional female superhero when she said, “They’re always fighting in a bra, so while it might be exciting for a still photo, it’s ridiculous. I do think superheroine movies are normally corny and bad. They’re always, like, fighting in four-inch heels with their [thrusting out her chest] like a two-gun salute.” While The Avengers certainly doesn’t portray the Black Widow like that, there is still an echo of the old male-gaze voyeurism in the way the camera follows her, always positioning the viewer to get a great look at her backside.

Scarlett Johansson as
The Black Widow

In the same Entertainment Weekly interview, Samuel L. Jackson expresses the chauvinist attitude that is still present in Hollywood today:

     Jackson: They got to get The Pro to the screen! I love that book!
     Johansson: What’s The Pro?
     Jackson: It’s [a comic book] about a hooker who gets superpowers!
     Johansson: That is exactly the problem right there!
     Jackson: It’s a totally dope book, though.
     Johansson: I’d have to wear pasties to greenlight any of these movies.

Director Joss Whedon gives a nod to The Hunger Games for taking a great step in changing how the film industry approaches woman as action heroes: “Studios will tell you: A woman cannot headline an action movie. After The Hunger Games they might stop telling you that a little bit. Whatever you think of the movie, it’s done a great service.”

It is clear that there is still a lot of progress to be made in promoting strong women on the screen. The Avengers does not regress into many of the failings of past superhero movies in how it presents its female characters, but it is limited by comic book characterizations that were developed in a time when women were not expected to take on more powerful roles. If Joss Whedon is correct in thinking The Hunger Games has paved the way for a more progressive female protagonist, I look forward to the superheroine movies to come.