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2. Gary Oldman
3. Robert De Niro
4. Sean Connery
5. Willem Dafoe
6. Sam Rockwell
7. Ian McKellan
8. Jack Nicholson
9. Hugh Jackman
11. Alfred Molina
12. Nick Stahl
13. Brendan Gleeson
14. Michael Clarke Duncan
15. Don Cheadle
16. Morgan Freeman
17. Christian Bale
18. Tom Wilkinson
19. Robert Downey Jr.
20. Eric Bana
21. Anthony Hopkins
22. Jack Black
23. Johnny Depp
24. Bill Nighy
25. Geoffrey Rush
26. Simon Pegg
27. Vinnie Jones
28. Kevin Spacey
29. Dustin Hoffman
30. Ben Foster
31. Steve Buscemi
32. Tim Robbins
Evan Rachel Wood
Get Out (2017)
Some people go to the movies for escapism - for a diversion; a well-deserved break from real life. Then there are those who frequent the cinema for elucidation of deeper truths, or explication unpacking sociopolitical concerns of the time. Somehow (somewhat amazingly), comedy veteran Jordan Peele has crafted a film perfectly geared to appeal to either camp - and as his directorial debut, to boot. Get Out is an unforgettable cinematic experience, tackling subtext almost eerily prescient in the wake of racially-motivated hate crimes, rallies, and dangerously escalating discrimination (both explicit and pervasively subtle. But, lest prospective viewers pass it by as a soapbox diatribe, Peele opts to frame his discourse through an ingeniously un-didactic psychological horror genre lens (think The Stepford Wives crossed with Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, thrown into a Hitchcockian Psycho blender, and churned with a table saw). It's fiendishly eloquent, but almost outlandishly absurdist. And it may be the most clever, bonkers, nail-biting, irreverently ingenious, and grimly fun time at the movies this year.
If that sounds like a confusing cocktail of diametrically opposed elements it is. Yet, somehow, Peele shakes, stirs, and serves the perfect filmic entrée disguised as an aperitif, its roller-coaster ride of emotions and response somehow working seamlessly as an ingeniously homogeneous film. Social satire and the horror genre have long gone hand in hand (in fact, "We all go a little mad sometimes" could practically serve as the tagline for the movie that is 2017 ), but Peele finds that true horror lies in the crushing weight of racially-motivated micro-aggressions sprinkled out by the caste of (sometimes) well-intentioned nouveau-liberals doing their best to counteract privilege by being a little too earnest in telling the only African American in the room that they would've voted for Obama for a third term if they could. Peele's satire may be barbed - perhaps too much so not to hit a nerve for some audiences - but its teeth are razor sharp, capturing the intricacies of moments of discomfort almost imperceptible apart from those experiencing them in both hysterical and cringe-worthy detail. His airtight script is succinct but extraordinarily precise, with dialogue rife with clever wordplay (watch for all of the seemingly innocent inclusions of the word "black" in innocuous conversation) and coy foreshadowing so intricate the film practically necessitates repeat viewings to drink it all in.
And just when you're engrossed in cackling and cringing under your breath at the savage Act 1 satire, Peele cordially reminds you that you're here watching a horror film - and hits you with no holds barred. Of course, he's never fully let you fully forget it, with a chillingly surreal prologue, and poetic flourishes sneakily maintaining a mood of general unease (protagonists Chris and Rose hit a deer on the way to visiting her parents in the countryside). Some of these are artsy piece of tone-setting foreshadowing. Some are playful red herrings. Some are both, with enough narrative bread crumbs scattered to elicit some painful 'I should've KNOWN!' face-palming in the third act for all but the most eagle-eyed viewers. And none are extraneous, all firmly in service of forwarding both the film's horror tropes and real-life horror intertexts in equal, grim measure. Case in point: "the sunken place" - a bout of hypnosis-paralysis Chris is subjected to that has the film at its most claustrophobically terrifying while also providing a crushingly perfect metaphor for feeling consistently beaten down and repressed in a closeted discriminatory culture.
As things take an increasingly chilling turn for the macabre (and Peele's pitch-perfect pacing stews tension to a frantic fever pitch with the effortless nonchalance of a seasoned veteran), Get Out's ultimate, rather sordid, gag is how easy it is to miss the forest for the trees. We find ourselves tempted, alongside Chris, to write off his spine-tingling experiences as paranoia (or the film artistically extrapolating on the experience of racial discrimination), when the reality could simply be that things are, in fact, so much worse than the fears a lifetime of living in 'polite society' has taught him to dismiss as overzealous. The realization starts witty, then becomes almost overwhelmingly sobering. And there's the definitive microcosmic distillation of the film's audience experience as a whole.
Daniel Kaluuya gives an outstanding performance as Chris, establishing a baseline of perfectly affable nonchalance to make the rawness with which he radiates horror at the indignities he's increasingly subjected to all the more harrowing. Still, Kaluuya's work is too sophisticated for rote 'final girl' horror reactions, and a couple of left-turn character choices skirting obvious Hollywood moral choices keep Chris enigmatic enough to remain compelling throughout. Allison Williams is equally terrific, perfecting a peppy charisma with just enough of a highly-strung edge to ensure she equally dodges cliché throughout. Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford embody that particular strain of friendliness that is somehow icier and more imperious with every smile to almost unnerving effect, while LilRel Howery is reliably hilarious, pulling double-duty as the film's bombastic comic relief and incredulous moral centre. Finally, Caleb Landry Jones infuses his inherent slithering creepiness into a drunken jock archetype to perfectly unnerving effect, while Stephen Root's warm eloquence provides a welcome foil to the tone-deaf effete posturing threatening to suffocate Chris.
If ever there were a single film to distill the madness of the sociopolitical climate of the past year and make sense of it with acid wit and world-weary humour, it's Peele's unforgettable Get Out. It's psychological horror film as inventive and groundbreaking as it is sadistically playful. It's an unnervingly timely, walloping deconstruction of the intimate intricacies of privilege and prejudice for the "I'm not racist, but..." crowd. In short, prospective viewers would do well to follow the advice of its title - Get Out of your house, routine, deeply entrenched mindset, and drink in what hindsight will invariably decree the most illustrative (and fiendishly enjoyable) film of the year.
Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
Way to plant, Frank
It's rather appropriate to think that a show now almost unavoidably supersaturated in contemporary pop culture from a crooning Jake Gyllenhaal, covers of "Suddenly Seymour" on every TV Broadway allusion from Glee to Carpool Karaoke, and performances popping up like alien spores in high school drama classes across the planet found its humble beginnings in a surprisingly fun, cheapo 1960s Roger Corman horror comedy that knew to sell its scares with a wink and a healthy slathering of camp. Frank Oz's 1986 movie musical mitigates the gap well, pairing its jaunty, infectiously catchy tunes with appropriately grungy production values that lends the film the veneer of a top notch production taking place in a discount college set. And, despite this inherent imbalance making for a somewhat uneven watch, Oz's Little Shop of Horrors oozes plucky charm, ensuring that while it may not be the most memorable or definitively told movie musical of its era, its inherent entertainment factor certainly stands the test of time.
Playing as an incrementally less tongue-in-cheek Rocky Horror Picture Show, 'cheerily clumsy' is the most apt description of Oz's foray into the movie musical genre. He nails the '60s doo-wop goofiness, keeping things playful by gleefully interrupting as many intentionally flat 'gee-whiz' dialogue exchanges with interjections from the 'Greek chorus' of narratorial singers, replete with as many spotlights and sequins as possible. The pacing is noticeably ramshackle, amiably lumbering between plot points with the dopey delirium of a tipsy Bill Murray, while Oz's staging of composer Alan Menken's eminently hummable tunes verges from perverse genius (a chorus of Steve Martin's dentist song shot from the inside of a patient's mouth) to forgettably silly filler (contextual ballad "Skid Row" is particularly tedious and extraneous thanks to Oz's curiously lugubrious, solemn staging). Still, Oz's cabal of cameos from virtually every famous face in '80s comedy (John Candy, Christopher Guest, Jim Belushi you name it!) indisputably help punch up some of the narrative's laggier moments, even as his take on the media furor surrounding protagonist Seymour's botanical blowout is a bit too toothless (pun intended) to properly stick.
It's mostly in terms of the film's dalliances into more serious content where Oz runs into trouble. In particular, in tackling the subplot involving romantic interest Audrey's domestic violence, Oz seems uncertain whether to fully invest in the pitch black satire of Alan Menken's lyrics or sell it as straight drama, and ending up with a tone that verges on worrisome flippancy. Similarly, the (purportedly studio hard-sold) populist Hollywood rewrite of the show's cheerfully macabre ending is a disappointingly false, gormless misfire - the rare happy ending liable to leave audiences feeling both unhappy and cheated. Still, Oz's Muppets tenure pays off in spades in terms of selling the film's central special effect the Audrey II puppet looks absolutely spectacular, with each sinew, root, and tooth phenomenally detailed, hitting the perfect blend of silly and disturbing (accentuated by the perfectly sassy performance by the wonderful Levi Stubbs), and moving with almost unnerving credibility, particularly when imperceptibly growing to astronomical size. It's almost offensive to think of a contemporary remake inevitably embodying Audrey II with CGI, particularly when Oz's efforts show just how hilarious and terrifying proper practical effects can be.
Rick Moranis, in the height of his 'weebly, lovable nerd' heyday, is perfectly cast as neurotic schlub with a heart of gold Seymour. He exemplifies Seymour's hapless misfortunes without straying into whiny self-indulgence, while ensuring his turn for the heroic in the film's second half is still tempered with enough ineptitude to ensure he remains sympathetic. Similarly, Ellen Greene keeps enough of a twinkle in her eye to ensure that her shrill Audrey lands as more than a coquettish stereotype, while (the stupendously appropriately named) Vincent Gardenia rumbles with appropriate bossy bluster as shop owner Mushnik. Still, the honours for indisputable show-stealing performance fall upon Steve Martin, almost as terrifying as he is unspeakably funny as the sadistic, gas-huffing dentist, whose note-perfect Elvis swagger only makes him all the more exquisitely unhinged. Throw in a side-splitting cameo from an orgasmically moaning Bill Murray as his obsessively masochistic patient (even outdoing the hilarity of cinematic predecessor Jack Nicholson from the 1960 film)? Comedic perfection.
Ultimately, Little Shop of Horrors' tentativeness in fully committing to its inherent kitsch or bizarre darkness may serve as further credence that some Broadway musicals are always fated to fare better staying on Broadway. But it's hardly an epitaph, as the film's triple threat of dream cast, catchy tunes and Oz's cheeky, charming telling more than earn its keep in audience hearts even amidst its glut of theatrical reincarnations. It may not be the most memorable or sharply told musical of its time, but any film audacious enough to play Steve Martin torturing a child with a drill while sashaying around like a cross between Chuck Berry and Daffy Duck for laughs is always worth rooting for. Groan.
Kimi no na wa. (2016)
Hold onto that feeling
Just a small town girl, living in a lonely world. Just a city boy...
No, wait. Hear me out.
Granted, it's initially hard to sell Your Name - a meet cute anime twist on Freaky Friday - as a worthwhile recipient of its considerable, well-deserved hype, rather than a big screen, big budget rendition of Fruits Basket. But the hype is real. Inauspicious or not, writer/director Makoto Shinkai's film is somewhat of a genre-bending game changer - a film so special that the struggle to properly do justice to it leaves me resorting to inelegantly cherrypicking from a slew of contemporary allusions (the elegant loneliness of Murakami; the mischievous whimsy of Wong-Kar Wai; an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind interwoven with The Breakfast Club with the most imperceptible pinch of your average buddy cop comedy comedy for spice), while it is still far more than the sum of their parts. In short, it's one of the most unexpected, simple but profound, entrancing, and poetically beautiful films to cross screens in years. It's as fun as it is melancholy, as unforgettable as it is sweetly unassuming. Even better - it's that rare anime where comparisons to Studio Ghibli aren't simply lip service, but actually warranted in terms of exquisite, painstaking heart and attention to detail. Yes, really.
But such lofty praise is actually far from the spirit of a film that goes about its remarkable business with a cheeky subtlety. Shinkai wisely plays off the initial silliness of his concept, with the early body swap sequences staying rooted in lighter, bawdier humour, playfully portrayed with a springy, sassy wit keeping even the broadest moments no less human and adorable for their broadness. The conceit itself is kept indifferently vague, apart from the haziest of nods to traditional spirituality - it's not the 'how' that matters here anywhere near as much as the 'what.' Similarly, there's a clearly delineated dichotomy between the two protagonists' 'tradition vs. modernity' milieus (with larger, extrapolating themes of supplanting history and cultural longing spanning generations to be teased out by those keen enough), but Shinkai is content to let the contrast sit, rather than milking it for shoehorned theme, or garish social commentary.
More than anything, the film captures that ethereal but omnipresent sense of vague dissatisfaction, longing, and persistent but directionless striving that is bound to feel almost achingly familiar to any given audience member, regardless of age, nationality, or standing in life. Shinkai takes a distressingly familiar sense of ennui, and infuses it with a melancholy grace, a feeling accentuated hugely by the film's simply gorgeous, sweeping artwork, infusing panoramas of mountain-dwarfed Japanese countrysides and bustling Tokyo skyscrapers with an unbelievable level of composition and care. When the film glissandos into a third-act twist that is as devastating as it is unpredictable for all but the most eagle-eyed of viewers, it transcends into a piece of larger-than-life folklore, conjuring an almost feverishly heightened viewership that redefines magnetic, before culminating with a quiet grace note that ties up the emotional knot in ways both elegiac and unforgettably uplifting. It may sound like a perennial squall of emotional peaks and valleys, but Shinkai surfs it with nonchalant poise, with his rock-steady pacing lending the film an almost uncanny gestalt. Upon the arrival of the closing credits, don't be surprised to hear a wet gasp, equal parts tearful and jubilant, erupting from your throat, unsolicited. You won't be alone in doing so.
If there are any imperceptible faults to be found, it's that Shinkai's perhaps inevitable leaning on anime tropes do, at times, dip the film into conventions it would normally nimbly leap over. The occasional conflict-expanding plot device or bombastic musical interlude, particularly in gearing up for the film's climax, strain convention in ways that are only startling in their inconsistency with the film's customary elegance, while lead actors Mone Kamishiraishi and Ryûnosuke Kamiki, while both lending credibly commanding voices, are as hyperbolic as they come in their grunts, gasps, and other verbalizations reacting to their bizarre circumstances.
Still, these are the faintest blemishes on the face of a truly beautiful, touching film, that truly demonstrates that the affective potential of traditional animation still has many wrinkles of uncanny power yet to unfurl. So do yourself a favour: believe the hype. Invest in Your Name. If you have any space amidst the ensuing deluge of feelings, you may just thank yourself you did.
Free Fire (2016)
Godard once quipped that "All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun." Ben Wheatley heard him.
You can practically hear writer/director Ben Wheatley cackling at the pundits of senseless, depraved violence in cinemas while pitching Free Fire - savagely experimental, darkly comedic revisionist action flick which is - no exaggeration - roughly 80% shootout. The impression is of Wheatley getting his hands on a '90s era Reservoir Dogs knockoff, riddling the script with a machine gun, and treating each bullet hole at face value. Is it gimmicky with a limited shelf life? Sure. But is it a worthwhile experiment, and oodles of fun even as it overstays its welcome? Bet yer feckin' arse.
If Christopher Nolan sought to bottle the noise and chaos of war with this summer's Dunkirk, Wheatley matches him with a film every bit as sensorially overwhelming, but anchored by colourful archetypes spewing savagely funny zingers and a deluge of profanities at each other between yelps and grunts of pain and the omnipresent boom of gunfire. Film scholars have long loved to wax poetic about action interludes as performative musical numbers, but Wheatley pioneers a form of anti-spectacle action, treating gunplay as part of the dialogue, and the film as a whole as a furious debate. Bursts of bullets serve as proclamations, rebuttals, and killer arguments are made rather literally. The splashy but sparse soundtrack helps to jazz things up a little, but for such a pressure cooker situation, apart from Armie Hammer and Sharlto Copley's blindingly flamboyant '70s suits, there's little to no visual pizazz - it's all part of the din.
And there's the rub - if Wheatley spun Free Fire as a p*ss take of bloated Hollywood gunplay, it's his own satirical bent that calls his film's own bluff. Namely, fun as their caustic banter, verbal and cordite, can be, it still gets quite boring watching a group of eejits yelling and shooting at each other for well over an hour without break. Over time, as the comparatively short run time feels increasingly cavernous, we grow to long for personal conversation of any semblance of depth, plot, or even a respite from the maelstrom of sound, like we're lost in the desert without water. Tailing his 2015 period piece political satire High Rise, one would at least expect Wheatley to worm in some scathing social commentary, especially when weaving in the '70s IRA conflict into a genre lambasted for desensitizing audiences to gun violence. Well, if there is any commentary to be gleaned, it's hard to hear - in more ways than one. Still, in a sense, Wheatley may have the last laugh, as it all ultimately rolls into a macro satire of everything - politics, pacing, coherence, common sense, and even giving the customer what they want - falling to the wayside once guns are actually drawn. The epitome of 'shoot first and ask questions later?' It seems we've just found it.
How Wheatley convinced such a talented cabal of actors to primarily spend their days crouching behind supply crates yelping in pain is beyond me, but his investment pays off: without the cast, Free Fire, quite simply, would have little in its favour to convince any audiences to stick around. Thankfully, his troupe is more than up for the challenge. Brie Larson makes for a perfectly coy moral centre, remaining as sphinx- like as she is suave, keeping the audience consistently guessing as to her ultimate allegiances. Cillian Murphy and Michael Smiley lend the film a credible streak of unshowy, no-nonsense class, while Sam Riley and Armie Hammer have a hoot hamming it up, balancing debonair airs with bug-eyed, incredulous outbursts. Sharlto Copley, in particular, practically foams at the mouth masticating scenery, but the film welcomes his bursts of zaniness, and Copley is careful to say on the right side of cartoony to remain interesting.
It may be more performance art piece than memorable bastion of cinema, but Free Fire certainly emerges as a far more coherent and cleverly assembled counterpart to other equally inexhaustible attempts at milking the dizzy spectacle of the action genre for all its worth (remember 2016's Hardcore Henry? I thought not. What about 2005's Domino? Yeah, I try not to either. Shudder). With an endearingly acrid ear for dialogue, a-la Tarantino or Martin McDonagh, Wheatley's band of miscreants may not be likable, memorable, or do very much, but it's surprisingly entertaining watching them doing the little they do as noisily as they do it. So, the next time a relative jeers at how senselessly, gratuitously violent Hollywood cinema has become, sit them down in front of Free Fire. They'll either adjust their standards accordingly, chuckling at its tongue- in-cheek excesses, or be too deaf from the cascade of endless gunshots to argue much. Either way is a moral victory of sorts. Maybe.
Atomic Blonde (2017)
The Cold War just got cooler
Following up Wonder Woman in the summer's one-two punch of Hollywood taking note that watching women hit people can be cool, Atomic Blonde effortlessly sidesteps crass attempts to derivatively reduce it to the sum of its male-centric genre buds (Jane Bond; Blonde Wick) with a robust, effortlessly slick sense of infectious cool. Going by the film's trailer, it'd be fair to expect more of a stylized, Suicide Squad grunge cartoon - a scrappy, bloody-knuckled summer blowout as cool to look at as it is utterly brainless. But surprisingly, apart from mischievously dabbling in some Kick-Ass calibre spray paint title cards, director David Leitch keeps things cool and collected with a deceptively old- fashioned, story-heavy spy thriller... that just also happens to have some of the most f*ck yeah fight sequences in the past several years of cinema.
If anything, Atomic Blonde works so hard to avoid being brainless and disposable that it almost overcompensates in doing so. Leitch navigates a labyrinthine Cold War potboiler that's more John Le Care than John Wick, with crackling period piece atmosphere that recreates the crumbling muckiness of the Wall about to fall as a shambling nightclub rave full of terse but exhilarating danger. Granted, the script's MacGuffin of a stolen dossier of undercover agents may cause some already well-versed in 007 and Mission: Impossible to roll their eyes from over-familiarity. Otherwise, Leitch crisply plunges into neo-noir 'whodunnit' territory, whisking through the sociopolitical tensions and latent violence at a madcap pace, while utilizing framing flash-forward interview sequences (anchored by the delightfully bemused Toby Jones and John Goodman) as a chance for audiences to catch their breaths. If anything, the dizzying plot has almost one twist too many for following not to feel like having been roundhouse kicked by Charlize, or for plot holes not to pop up like land mines. Thankfully, Kurt Johnstad's steady script keeps things lean and playful, assuring that even audiences left scratching their heads at the surplus of side characters double and triple-crossing will stick around for the fun.
And fun there unquestionably is - Atomic Blonde, hands down, boasts some of the best action combat sequences to grace screens in years. Former stunt coordinator Leitch's no- nonsense approach to style and fun is never plainer than in his beat-downs: fast, furious, they erupt unannounced out of the least likely of dialogue exchanges, blisteringly violent without feeling gratuitous, while slick, stylized and impeccably orchestrated without feeling cartoony. Most crucially, Leitch finds a perverse sense of humour in keeping his superhuman spies firmly grounded within the real world - when they're shot, they scream, bleed, and crumple, and when they fight off multiple opponents, they slump with exhaustion so much it's almost more entertaining seeing them grimace with righteous indignation in their fatigue than it is watching them continue the scrap. The showboating centrepiece alone, a nine minute(!) tracking shot scrimmage, will blow your mind as you lose track of how many back-flips Charlize Theron has done down multiple flights of stairs before shattering more glass tables and crushing more larynxes in an uninterrupted take, all while looking steadily more peeved that she's been subjected to such a bother. If there's been a dearth of women headlining quality action scenes, it's exceeded only by action heroes responding with appropriate disgruntled exhaustion at the spectacle feats they're expected to undertake effortlessly. Here, Leitch eagerly offers a reprieve from both, and punching has seldom been so fun as it is with amusing consequence behind it.
Still coasting on her Mad Max: Fury Road high, Charlize Theron continues to redefine brawny, take-no-sh*t cool with an undercurrent of eye-rolling swagger. She keeps her icy Lorraine Broughton enigmatic, with only flirtatious hints of backstory or inner pain, but she's effortlessly striking, magnetic and wryly charismatic to the end. Similarly, James McAvoy, has, by now, unquestionably monopolized the niche of 'unhinged, mildly psychotic, but puppy dog emotional and oddly suave in a twitchy way,' and he's never exemplified it more than here, infusing his grubby undercover agent with an exuberantly nihilistic sense of devil-may-care, making him utterly unpredictable but infectiously entertaining to watch scuttle along. Supporting their clumsy 'buddy cops who just might shoot each other' chemistry, Sofia Boutella shines as a fellow spy thick in skullduggery despite a somewhat confusingly painted character arc, while the intrinsically lovable Eddie Marsan is characteristically fine company as a seedy but earnest defector.
Atomic Blonde may verge on overstaying its welcome, with a plot as expansive and tremulously rocky as the anchoring Berlin Wall. Still, it's such a breezy, slickly executed spy caper, steered by show-stopping punch-outs, that it just might be the ideal cool sucker-punch to expectations to help counterbalance a summer of CGI-drenched franchise bloat. Brains and brawn - who woulda thunk it. You can practically hear the thunk of a Hollywood mogul's briefing notes hitting the board room table, excitedly exclaiming "Action movie audiences like ladies AND story?!" This truly is the 21st century.
Keanu and KStew, and the Collage of a Thousand Better Space Movies
Ever hear of the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? Here's the Six Degrees of Valarien and Laureline. Debuting in French comics in the late 1960s, the strip made a profound mark on contemporary science fiction, most notably Star Wars, which Marvel Studios jovially riffed on in Guardians of the Galaxy*... which is itself the primary influence on Luc Besson's go-for-broke big budget cinematic take on Valarien. The real irony? Besson's Valarien, despite an infectiously jaunty, swaggering charm, is but the palest shade of the average knockoff of any of the above, exemplifying scores of old-school negative sci-fi stereotypes without a whit of self-consciousness. It's a smorgasbord of bright, chirpy, visual fun, but, sadly, the film's catastrophic box office performance has ultimately written its own epitaph it's a watch better suited for home viewing, when judicious fast-forwarding (or muting) are not only an option, but nearly life- saving measures for those not in it for the laughs.
Valerian is a hard film to dislike insofar as Besson has poured so much childlike joy into his evident passion project that disparaging it feels like kicking a puppy. Take his cheery prelude, envisioning a Utopian future of galactic peace and harmony as a montage of space handshakes set to David Bowie so dopily heartwarming, watching is akin to avoiding cracking a smile drinking in a child's crayon scribblings depicting world peace. See? You're smiling already! And, as Besson plunges into a visually sumptuous conflict-establishing prologue on an alien world filled with distended blue humanoids (which, within 30 seconds, is already more interesting than Avatar), the smiles persist, sensing you're in good hands, embarking on a silly and perfectly delightful spacewalk.
But then: a brick wall, where our smiles immediately fade, and the film comes to an immediate, screeching halt. Yes we've just met our heroes. And they are no happier to see us or each other - than we are to have them burst our bubble of fun. Now, it's tacitly understood that some judiciously wooden acting is a staple of good-bad sci-fi, but our intrepid heroes are so awful they push us past all limits of human decency. Individually, Dane DeHaan (who seems to be channelling his best '90s Keanu Reeves, with 'Sulky Whoa' dialed up to 11) and Cara Delevingne (whose range spans from 'frown vacantly' to 'scowl vacantly') fulfil their function as 'cardboard-cutouts-who- point-their-space-guns-at-things-and-look-cool-doing-it' just fine. But together, they're so flat, surly, and atrociously incompatible they share an almost unprecedented anti-chemistry, so visibly uncomfortable sharing scenes that they frequently hover at the respective edges of the film frame as if magnetically repulsed by one another. It's rendered all the more absurd that Besson burdens them with dialogue so asinine it plays like parody, and the two trade monolithic exposition dumps and hysterically insincere proclamations of love with delivery that wouldn't be out of place in Tommy Wiseau's The Room. Oh hai, Dane. The supporting cast do their best to pitch in - Clive Owen remember him?) grimaces and stomps around with passable grumpy gravitas, but you know the film is in a questionable state when the most compelling character arc comes from Rhianna playing a chipper, shape-shifting space cephalopod named Bubbles. Yup.
It's a shame the titular two are so intolerable, as the kaleidoscope of adventures they dive into are pretty outrageously fun. The plot (a vague but well-intentioned militaristic critique) is pure confetti, but Besson's pace is too zippy to sweat it, careening from spaceship to planet and back so breathlessly you'll scarcely have time to wonder "was that John Goodman grunting away as that alien mobster?"** Besson's alien worlds and denizens are painted with a weird and wonderful eye for extraterrestrial innovation, rendered by the film's above-par FX as cartoony in the best sense of the word. If nothing else, you can't knock the film for playing it safe, as the amount of bonkers surrealism entwining the film's child-friendly creature feature feels like The Phantom Menace directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet vision after chugging a six- pack of energy drinks. Apart from the usual plethora of familiar but invigorating 'run from the big monster' bits, here we have Valerian interrupt an action sequence to spout a soliloquy to (snort) Bubbles' skill as an, er, performer, Laureline shove her head up the anus of a prophetic space jellyfish, and nearly have her own cranium devoured by a flabby alien king as part of a parade half banquet half fashion show, while wearing a hat nearly the size of her. Oh, and Ethan Hawke pops up as a preening space pimp, for those who are into that kind of thing.
Imagine an entire film styled after Chris Tucker in The Fifth Element: loud, strange, clumsy, almost exhaustingly obnoxious, but cheerful as heck, visually dazzling in an enjoyably tacky way, and sheepishly enjoyable in spite of the (often literally) deafening flaws. There you have Valarien and the City of a Thousand Planets in a nutshell. With a different pair of leads who could cough up even embers of charisma and a script somewhat less aggressively on-the-nose, it'd be much easier to buy into the film's cornball retro-chic with the same unapologetic gusto Besson seems to have oozed while making his passion project. As it stands, Valerian remains a passably pleasant palate-cleansing aperitif for sci-fi junkies worn down by the genre's customary doom 'n gloom, but otherwise unlikely to play inspirational mentor to any successive texts. Except, perhaps, in taking its place (un)ironically in the next generation of Space Balls spoofs.
*And yes - Guardians contains a nod to Kevin Bacon. Overlapping allegories complete. The son has become the father, etc.
**Yes it was.
The Big Sick (2017)
Big Sick, no schtick
Stop me if you've heard this one: a cross-cultural meet cute with complicating second act drama, where a schlubby comedian finally has to face growing up when he meets the woman of his dreams. Nope, not Master of None; it's produced by Judd Apatow. Nope, not Knocked Up; it's also a medical drama, based on a true story. Nope, not Funny People; it's hey! Where are you going?
On paper, The Big Sick doesn't have a whole lot of originality going for it. And star/writer/actual real life couple Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon are very aware, painting the schmaltzy early days of their relationship with an almost tangible, eye- rolling reluctance. But hey - ever hear of that good ol' chestnut 'it's funny because it's true' (no? Well congrats, you platitude school dropout, you. Just don't count your chickens before they're hatched)? Exhibit A.
The Big Sick, quite simply, shouldn't work. But it did, in real life. And the film drips with such incredulous, tempestuous 'you can't make this sh*t up' emotional authenticity that, like its protagonists, it's nearly impossible not to fall for, and hard. It's by far the hardest you'll laugh and cry at the movies this year - maybe in several. I know. Trust me. Hear me out.
The secret genius to Nanjiani and Gordon's storytelling is recognizing that the only way to properly hit upon grander themes (reconciling arranged marriage with modern dating; preemptively mourning the loss of a loved one; all manner of family friction) is through a shrugging, microcosmic intimacy. Their screenplay is a pristine example of a work so finely-honed it feels fresh and improvised, addressing Big Issues with the colloquial looseness of a late night conversation over beers. Director Michael Showalter, accordingly, keeps things ticking along with an unshowy cleanness, eschewing any cinematic trickery or soon-to-be-dated tropes (and only caving to minimal Chicago skyline scene change panoramas, thank goodness) to further let the characters drive their own story. And drive they does, as the film's breeziness is so rapturously magnetic in its alternatively adorable/cringe-worthy/heartbreaking telling that it's worth seeing the film in theatres if only because pacing so effortlessly magnificent should emphatically not be squandered by a pause button.
If anything, some of the film's microscopic shortcomings are the moments that the Apatow influence backseat drives a touch excessively - a slightly too familiar mid-film dip from smiles to seriousness, and some superfluous riffing from background comedian buds that verges on superfluous showboating. Thankfully, for the most part, Nanjiani, Gordon, and Showalter have an uncanny grasp on steering any latent clichés into truth, rather than vice-versa. On several occasions, Hollywood cliché would dictate the film or characters should go one way, only for the film to belligerently gallop off the other way, even (or often) when they're noticeably less sympathetic in doing so. Nothing is tied up neatly with a bow, and characters don't always reconcile. Except when things are, and they do. And this instability of expectations not only keeps the storytelling welcomely fresh and vibrant, but makes the more convenient Hollywood turns feel all the more satisfying and earned in their credibility. The Big Sick is very funny and very sad, but often at its funniest when simultaneously at its saddest. And in the twain, it's also very, very real - and all the more lovable for it.
Actors playing semi-fictionalized versions of themselves is always a precarious prospect, but Nanjiani is by far one of the conceit's most rampant success stories. His is a fascinatingly fresh energy - quiet, owlish, wry, and charmingly awkward, but with a remarkable propensity to slip into tumultuous deluges of emotion so unexpectedly it's a struggle not to be as sucker-punched by his feelings as he is. For his inevitable breakdown scene, Nanjiani bleeds his emotions in piece by piece - first his posture sags ever so slightly, then the faintest quaver in his voice, until finally he's practically ravaged by hardship, but his face is still lagging to catch up, lending his struggle a bemused sad clown smile. And then, after barely drawing breath, he's got us in stitches, somehow making a tactless 9/11 comment all the more uncomfortable through a backfired attempt to make light of the situation. It's a tremendous performance, and one well-worth remembering for awards season.
But The Big Sick is far from a selfish starring vehicle, as the rest of the talented cast each flesh out their characters with remarkable effortlessness. Zoe Kazan is easily as stirringly hilarious and credibly heartbreaking in turn, embodying the 'real' Emily, as her disarming eyes sell jaunty, adorable silliness and haunted, indignant vulnerability with remarkable ease. As Emily's parents, Ray Romano (remember him?) blends his goofy brashness into an unprecedentedly dramatic role, while Holly Hunter is flat-out exceptional, burying astute kindness amidst a furious prickliness. We're granted disappointingly less time with Kumail's Pakistani family, but Zenobia Shroff, Anupam Kher, and Adeel Akhtar each steal scenery with hysterical proficiency, particularly when cooing or eye- rolling vetting an excruciating string of manufactured meet cutes for Kumail's prospective brides.
Short (an Apatow-affiliated comedy under two hours? Miracles DO happen!), sweet, straightforward, and brimming with intimate emotional beats invested with a wealth of real world feelings, The Big Sick is a remarkable, unforgettable time at the movies, all the more enjoyable for its familiarity rather than in spite of it. Heck - I'd go as far as to call it the best romantic comedy that's graced screens in recent memory, But, it's, like, ugh, totally not looking for anything serious right now, okay? Over it. Okay, bye. See you never. Whatever.
More Styles than substance
It's hard to walk into Dunkirk not expecting a masterpiece. After all, it's a gritty, Important, True Story by THE Christopher Nolan, bound to not only redefine the war genre, but obviously say meaningful things about Brexit.* Right?
Sadly, halfway through the ensuing Lord of the Rings length (only two hours? Really? Could've fooled me) deluge of water, fire, yelling, bullets, airplanes, ticking, and the incessant air-raid siren that is Hans Zimmer, it hit me: sheepishly, ashamedly, I was bored - bored! - by Dunkirk. Nolan's objective - I idly ruminated, unfazed by the dreary din of explosions and frowning - is commendable: a war movie that captures the immersive, sensory immediacy of war - disorienting, chaotic, overwhelming, and traumatizing. Unfortunately, his result, more PTSD flashback than film, is such an emotionally hollow sensory overload that the mayhem slides right off. And, evocative or not, this a problem - because war may be many things, but it shouldn't be boring.
Dunkirk's poster calls it an 'event,' and, fittingly, it's more sequence of events than congealing narrative. His characteristic time-toying editing endeavours to graft synchronicity between the Churchillian three prongs of battle (land, air, and sea), and their ensuing subplots. It's a fun conceit, but rendered a bit redundant without a concrete plot or clearly defined, or even discernible characters to anchor to. Instead, we are barraged by furious bursts of combat and sullen pauses in between, which increasingly blur into a nigh-incomprehensible muddle. There are some exceptional set pieces - soldiers frantically stranded under a flaming ocean, or a panorama of rescue vessels creeping over a horizon - but these are the exception rather than the rule in a film chiefly inundated by war tropes already done to death (pardon the fun) - just louder. In the face of such monolithic stimuli, it's a curious experience that a film so noisy and fast-paced can simultaneously feel so plodding and dull.
You can't fault Nolan for attempting such visceral sensory immersion. Still, it leaves one grumbling for the good ol' days when newfangled cinematic trickery existed to support rather than supplant character building and emotionally-driven storytelling. With an overly lyrical title card downplaying the crucial historical scope of the conflict (had the beach been lost, the ENTIRE British army would have been wiped out, drastically affecting the war's outcome), Nolan's nearly wordless humans become tantamount to props - they move in formation, strike poses, and are blown away, with shockingly little emotional impact. Each time a supposedly crucial character met their end, my brain remarked "Oh no - not...that guy!" with almost comical saltiness. Nolan is far from immune from cheese, too, and his preciously few sentimental moments are dropped in with the subtlety of a wanton torpedo (amidst such otherwise staunch realism, Tom Hardy's gas-free Spitfire takedown of all assailing Nazi forces is as much of a middle finger to the laws of physics as... Batman out-swimming an atomic bomb's fallout. Hmm). Paint a war as stirringly as you like, but when you don't care about the participants, it's about as engaging and affecting as drifting off during a high school history lecture.
It's a shame, as the film looks and sounds exquisite, being virtually peerless in conjuring the sheer affective maelstrom of a combat scene. Hoyte van Hoytema's cinematography is simply stunning, sweeping from the intimate, claustrophobic sludge of a wayward vessel full of bodies living and dead, to judiciously nodding to Riefenstahl in his long shot aerial panoramas, studying the milling geographic formations of humans on the beach like a neo-cubist ant farm. Similarly, Richard King's sound editing is startlingly visceral, with each crackle of gunfire or seismic explosion piercing with terrifying verisimilitude. With such sparse dialogue, silent film comparisons would be apt, were it not for Hans Zimmer's nails-on-a- chalkboard musical score - an incessant drone of consistently escalating crescendo (music nerds, envision Penderecki's Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima for two hours) so torturous in its intensity it recalls POW interrogation techniques; an almost tacky vying for fight-or-fight adrenal overload.
Nolan's cast are given such short shrift that, even as they do their best with their fleeting coughs of characterization, we're given so little time to let their performances breathe it's a struggle to give much of a sh*t. Fionn Whitehead and Harry Styles are the worst affected - each show beleaguered dregs of earnest affability amidst their frowns, but, ensconced by a mass of equally bland nameless grunts, they're ultimately interchangeably expendable long before indiscernibly caked in mud. The quietly heroic Mark Rylance and credibly shellshocked Cillian Murphy cough up terse sparks of a (gasp!) emotionally resonant subplot, but just when gossamer strands of brittle chemistry start to form, whoosh - we're whisked off to the next vague, disorienting firefight. Kenneth Branagh speaks his two trailer stinger lines with customary nobility, though Nolan is either a hysterically brazen troll or distressingly oblivious to again(!) subject a marble-mouthed Tom Hardy to a voice distorting full-face mask. Don't call him Deutschland's Reckoning.
It's a struggle to think of any film as sensorially bludgeoning as Dunkirk - and if all you're after is a cinematic kick to the head, you may find it to be somewhat of a masterpiece. Then again, those seeking a heart-pounding adrenal jolt could just as easily hit up a theme park roller-coaster - sadly, Dunkirk has about as much story to tell, and isn't much more memorable. But surely it's the summer's best war movie? Honestly, Wonder Woman might take the prize (yep - shots fired). Nolan wants to leave us with Churchill's proud words in our ringing ears (thanks, Hans...), but instead, we venture to the Bard: "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
*I doubt there's any intentional subtext. But it's dour, vaguely conservative, and feebly nationalistic, so you decide.
Quick picture the scariest, most blood-curdling thing in the world. Don't think just picture it. An image; a moment; a feeling of such utter mortification, disgust, and soul-chilling repulsion, even tangentially picturing it makes your skin clammy and fills you with dread. Have it? Good. Now, let's compare notes. I'll hazard a guess: it's not vampires, zombies, or ghosts. It's not clowns, axe-murders, or murderous children. It's not falling, being trapped underwater, or in a tight space.
It's high school.
Yes, it's a profound enough realization to catapult Stephen King from up-and- coming novelist to genre titan, pioneering decades of audiences realizing the true horror was not elaborate fantasies on screen it lay in the people surrounding them in day-to-day existence, and just how perverse, vindictive, and creatively cruel they could be. And it's a guiding principle that helps Brian De Palma's seminal adaptation of King's fledgling classic persist as more than a schlocky '70s thriller, landing in The Exorcist camp of one of the most deeply disturbing but perversely, sheepishly enjoyable cinematic frights of all time. And that's not even factoring in the blood-drenched mass-murder by telekinesis.
De Palma, a director largely acclaimed for style at the expense of substance, here finds the ideal wedding of the two, recognizing that King's parable is all the more gruesomely effective when seen through the heightened, hormonal dizziness of high school. At first glance, we're given the sense he's somewhat sold himself short, as the cheerfully gratuitous credits, featuring a gaggle of spectacularly naked coeds bouncing around a change room, suggest a jocular resignation to the comic book camp of B-horror (B for beeeeewwwbbs, naturally). A subsequent shot of Carrie ambiguously pleasuring herself in the shower, pelted by a playfully ejaculating shower head, is straight out of a porn parody. But then: a spurt of blood, and the shower's gone ice cold, as we're plunged into one of the most chilling openings to a horror film imaginable, as Carrie's histrionics, blindsided by her first period, are trumped by the scarring spectacle of her being pelted with tampons by her hooting, jeering cohort.
And then the shoe drops: De Palma, cunningly, has cottoned on to the true horror inherent in King's treatise being the see-sawing of expectations being requited and rebuffed. Initially, horror takes the backseat to satire, as De Palma gleefully lampoons the genre's objectification of female sexuality, and tacks on a deceptively savage incitement of the school system's inability to properly address bullying and mental health concerns (here, Betty Buckley expertly riddles her do-gooder teacher's kindly exchanges with Carrie with pedantic clumsiness and subtle resentment), while sprinkling in visits from Carrie's horrifically deranged mother (and the most distressingly leering Jesus on a crucifix in cinema history) so unhinged they can't help but ring grotesquely emotionally true. The social commentary is tempered somewhat by the slightly out-of-touch 'male writer hypothesizing what it's like to be a high school girl' (not helped by a cast nearly as visibly inappropriately old as Grease), but the cruelty rings hauntingly true.
But De Palma changes gears to to full-blown suspense building in the second act. Hardly subtle about his amorous Hitchcock influences (check out the sampling of Psycho's shrieking strings in Pino Donaggio's elegantly bombastic musical score), De Palma treats prom like Hitch's proverbial bomb on the bus - the anticipation, watching every last piece fastidiously click into place, is what makes it horrifying. With sadistic cheerfulness and perfectly steely, squirm-inducing pacing, he cross- cuts between Carrie, audaciously daring to hope she could still integrate with her peers at prom, and her classmates taking a late night jaunt to the slaughterhouse. It's almost unbearably cringe-worthy - pop culture infamy ensures we know exactly what the coup de grace is, but can't quite look away as it painstakingly runs its course. The final blowout itself - a maelstrom of dizzyingly circling cameras, whip- pan zooms, fast-forwards, and split-screens - toes the line of being distractingly stylized, but it's too guiltily, sordidly cathartic a payoff not to drink up. What we don't expect is a climax part II - even more distressingly batsh*t, as Carrie's mother requites the looming Psycho allusions before Carrie - literally - brings the house down. Tack on a jump scare coda that suggests De Palma, smirking, trying to outdo the heart palpitations from his buddy Steve's shark movie, and there's no question we've got a chilling classic on our hands.
Sissy Spacek is almost achingly perfect as the titular telekinetic, and there are few cinematic images that convey the writhing claustrophobia of adolescent isolation as her pitifully slumped, dishevelled form. Watching her painstakingly build nuggets of self-confidence, conceiving that her supernatural abilities could be miracles rather than satanic curses, to her beaming, tearful euphoria at being crowned prom queen, are almost too adorable to watch, making her descent into bug-eyed murderousness as heartbreaking as it is chilling. Piper Laurie unquestionably steals the show with a grotesquely fever-pitched tour-de-force as Carrie's fundamentalist mother, all the more titanically detestable upon realization that, idly humming while dragging and locking her daughter in a closet, she genuinely believes she's acting in Carrie's best interests. John Travolta and Nancy Allen are each deliciously awful as Carrie's malevolent bully and her dopey, sadistically eager boyfriend, their caustic banter as funny as the underlying abuse is unsettling, while Luke Skywalker-wannabe William Katt and Amy Irving are each understatedly earnest as the two sheepishly trying to redeem Carrie's year (the ambiguity of Katt's oscillating enthusiasm as Carrie's prom date remains one of the film's most enigmatic touches).
Carrie may verge on being overcooked at times, but its blend of visceral imagery, incisive social critique, and bonkers climactic payoff sear its place into the annals of horror history. So go ahead: take Carrie to the prom. You just might not be sorry that you did.
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Bland, James Bland
In 1969, George Lazenby's 007 stampeded the screen with the exquisitely '60s marketing battle cry of "Far up! Far out! Far more!" (and how! Like, wow!). Unfortunately, it's advice that Mr. Bond, James Bond continued to follow, well into the Roger Moore era, until the franchise had somewhat written itself into a corner of exponential excess, cultivating in the grotesque, campy bloat of Moonraker. So how to top Bond in space? Bring him back down to earth, naturally, with a cracking, gritty tale of espionage, to reestablish Bond as secret agent rather than Jedi Knight. And For Your Eyes Only nearly works as a welcome revitalization of Bond's class and spy credibility (even if it borrows even more liberally from From Russia With Love than The Spy Who Loved Me did from You Only Live Twice). It's just a shame that director John Glen seems to have overcompensated somewhat, endeavouring so tirelessly to deliver 'serious Bond' that his resulting romp, while pleasant, remains one of the blandest and least memorable outings of the series.
To his credit, Glen rides the 007 franchise's most flamboyant, pointedly responsive tonal shift with ease, conjuring a distinctly vintage Fleming/John Le Carré vibe, and that rare shocker of a Bond film where (gasp!) the plot is actually its main selling point. And no, that's not just a jab at the comparative lack of 007 razzle-dazzle populating the spectacle frontier. Indeed, Glen stages a good action scene (the opening double-whammy of shipwreck and aeronautical murder are both genuinely alarming), even if many could do with having the pace and intensity accelerated to avoid pacing drifting into worrisomely laggy territory (the underwater submarine subterfuge and cliffhanger finale are all fun, but so lugubrious they're - literally, in the case of the shark-baiting water skiing - a drag). Glen makes good use of his experience as a veteran 007 second unit director, and evocatively captures the natural flavour and unassuming beauty of Italy and Greece. Still, the restrained spectacle and distinctly grey colour palate - set largely at night or in earthly locales, the only real colours pop up in Moore's gaudy wardrobe - do lend the film a disappointingly muted feel, which can't help but suck a lot of the fun out of proceedings. Serious is one thing, but snoozy is a step too far.
Equally, the fawning fandom renown for the film's grit and credibility do demonstrate some selective memory: a somewhat shambling subplot having Bond subdue assailants by use of every Olympic winter sport is a strained contrivance whose fun factor wanes quickly, while a 'deus-ex-parrot' has to be one of the lamest plot devices of the entire franchise. Then there's the pre-credits sequence, which takes its place as the least thrilling and most idiotic offloading of Bond's legendary arch-nemesis imaginable (its inclusion being a thinly-veiled middle finger to Kevin McCrory, who hoarded Blofeld's rights for the execrable Never Say Never Again, is droll, but still self-indulgently stupid). And then there's Bibi - Lynn-Holly Johnson's contribution to the 'most annoying Bond girls' pantheon, whose infamous whiny, childhood petulance is excused only as cue for Moore's most amusingly acrid one-liner in his 007 tenure ("Put your clothes on and I'll buy you an ice cream"). Perhaps said ice cream could help sooth that burn.
Bill Conti's jaunty disco synths and cowbells are groovy, but toe the line of distracting silliness, saved only when weaving the Bond theme in (more sparingly than usual, though - boo), while Glen anchoring the film's predominant car chase with a VW Beetle is really pushing the limit of tongue-in-cheek. And speaking of cheek: Daniel Craig's 007 may have met Queen Elizabeth, but it took Moore to take the p*ss out of Margaret Thatcher. It's a closing note of such amusing ballsiness you have to wonder how many shaken-not-stirred martinis Cubby Broccoli imbibed in before signing off on.
Pairing the legendarily droll Roger Moore with the film's self-declared serious ethos could have misfired terribly, but Moore flexes his acting chops and keeps the British end up masterfully. He's starting to look a touch too old for the part here, and tempers his Bond appropriately - more sparing with the quips (though his incredulous eyebrows provide perennial punchlines in themselves), sombre and dignified visiting his wife's grave, and even more so when cautioning Melina not to be consumed by vengeance. As said vengeful firecracker, Carole Bouquet may be a touch flat, but she's elegant and credibly fierce, and welcomely far more capable than the average Bond girl. The same cannot be said for Julian Glover, whose adversary is so dull and immediately forgettable he's almost invisible while sharing scenes with his fellow actors. Thankfully, as the film's Kerim Bey surrogate, Topol is practically bursting at the seams with bawdy, infectious charisma (ten points if you recognized him without his Tevye beard, too). Cassandra Harris (Pierce Brosnan's late wife), is charmingly prissy as one of Bond's motivationally vaguer trysts. Finally, Desmond Llewelyn and Lois Maxwell's Q and Moneypenny are charm incarnate as always, while James Villiers, dripping with snide contempt, covers the vacancy of M well, after Bernard Lee's tragic mid-film passing.
For Your Eyes Only marks a valiant social experiment in fighting against the decade's excesses in the interests of re-grounding the ethos of the character, and for this it deserves credit. Ultimately, it's one of Bond's quieter, more sombre and reflective outings, and in somewhat steadier hands could have served as a strong character study. As it stands, it's a pleasant, suitably engaging watch, with many strong moments undermined by inconsistent silliness and a general sense of hazy disengagement. Ultimately, for better or worse, it's a moment of zen for Bond - intriguing but scarcely memorable for many outside of die-hard fans, and unlikely to spur any new recruits into posing in tuxedos (or powder blue snowsuits) in changing rooms. Maybe if you offer to buy them a delicatessen...