Longtime readers of this column will know that Angelina Jolie holds a special place in the Back Row.
Over the past 15 years (750-plus columns) the word "Angelina" has appeared a stunning 83 times — headlining columns like "Top Five Lesbian Sex Scenes" (
Gia for the win!) or "Taking Lives & Breaking Hearts" and the classic, "Oh, Angelina." No other actor comes close to hitting Angelina's numbers in these pages — even Brad Pitt only warranted 36 mentions while smokeshow Megan Fox got 16, (which is three more than Meryl Streep).
But the giant tick-tocking crocodile of time is chasing down all of us — Angelina Jolie turns 43 this year, and while she's still one of the most appealing and bankable stars on the planet, when it came time to cast the new Tomb Raider reboot... well, youth wins again.
And so, 29-year-old (but young-looking) Swedish-born Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina, The Danish Girl) is stepping into the arena as Lara Croft, the titular heroine of the world's most popular female-driven video game franchise. Based on the 2013 reboot of the Tomb Raider game, this one is an origin story that follows a brave-but-inexperienced Lara on her first foray out into the action to follow in her explorer father's footsteps.
There's a lot of mystery surrounding her old man's disappearance, and young Lara (she's 21 in the story) has to trust her gut, and stubborn spirit to help navigate a world of tombs and villains and perilous leaps. It's a coming-of-age adventure tale, one where those private school archery lessons will definitely come in handy.
Lara Croft is an institution. Sadly, director Roar Uthaug (The Wave) kinda shit the bed on how he shot and edited the action scenes in this Tomb Raider — they're cut too fast and jerky. But all is not lost; Vikander brings a heightened athleticism to the role (lots of jumping and hanging off stuff) and anyone wondering how a 5-4 tall person, even one that ripped, can kickbox the hell out of all those bad guys should remember that Bruce Lee was only 5-6 and he beat the pants off Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Chuck Norris. (Also, Tomb Raider is a video-game movie, maybe let some realism slide.)
In the end, this reboot is not epic (blame the script) nor is it as fun as Angelina's version, but Vikander brings a new physicality to Lara Croft and only a goddamned fool would pass up a Tomb Raider movie anyhow. Catch this one in 3D or Regular-D at the Whistler Village 8.
Also opening, Love, Simon is another coming of age story, but this time about a gay teen who's yet to come out to his family and friends. Director Greg Berlanti is probably best known for his TV work (producer on Riverdale) and this one does have a bit of a TV feel (like Degrassi by way of John Hughes) but it has a lot of heart and emotion, and brings palpable tension to everyday moments of high school life. It's also a love story with messages of courage, tolerance and the dangers of using public computers to check your email. (Stay on point, kids!)
The Stream of the Week is They Live, a classic John Carpenter flick from 1988. Rowdy Roddy Piper stars as a drifter who discovers that society is run by aliens disguised as humans that are manipulating the rest of us through the mass media and popular culture. So basically, Carpenter predicted the future and then topped it with a six-minute alley-fight brawl sequence and the best surprise ending ever.
Because he made genre films (horror and sci-fi), John Carpenter has been criminally under-appreciated for decades. Which is something 2018 Best Picture/Best Director winner Guillermo Del Toro (The Shape of Water) was hoping to change last week when he unleashed a "tweetstorm" to remind everyone of Carpenter's greatness. Here's a dude who knocked out classic after classic, directing 16 flicks (most of them amazing) from 1976's Assault on Precinct 13 to 2001's Ghosts of Mars. (He even wrote the soundtrack to Halloween.)
We'll get into Carpenter more next week but your homework is to google Del Toro's Twitterstorm. And if you're on the computer anyhow, may as well go watch Angelina Jolie play a hot bisexual supermodel in Gia (bonus points if you watch it on laserdisc)!