Connect with us

Movies News

Emma Thompson in ‘Good Luck to You, Leo Grande’: Film Review | Sundance 2022

Published

on

Emma Thompson in ‘Good Luck to You, Leo Grande’: Film Review | Sundance 2022

Intimate in every sense, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande represents an affirming, immensely likable British comedy-drama. Admittedly, it’s more issue- than character-driven, like a hip advice-column story but with tracking shots. But that didacticism works given that it features Emma Thompson as a prim, widowed, high-school religious studies teacher who hires Daryl McCormack’s sex worker for a date, hoping to have an orgasm for the first time ever.

Naturally, the course of true pleasure n’er runs smooth, but along the way this lean, sensitively performed two-hander, written by British comedian Katy Brand and directed by Australian Sophie Hyde (Animals, 52 Tuesdays), builds up a refreshingly sex-positive portrait of a client-escort relationship, but with a female customer for a change. Although older female viewers would seem to be Leo‘s obvious target, other demographics would also get into its groove. Theatrical returns might be modest, but online it will gush streams like a river in springtime.

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande

The Bottom Line

Sex-positive and positively sexy.

Advertisement

Venue: Sundance Film Festival (Premieres)
Cast: Daryl McCormack, Emma Thompson, Isabella Laughland
Director: Sophie Hyde
Screenwriter: Katy Brand


1 hour 37 minutes

Although shot in a just-glimpsed Norwich, Norfolk, about a hundred miles from London, the town isn’t named and the story could be taking place in just about any hotel room in the U.K., or at least in any town big enough to have male escorts working discreetly in the area. In fact, the action is so confined to one location, you would almost think Brand had written this as a stage play originally. (Indeed, if this works as a film feature, maybe it will transition as a theater work someday.)

In a plush but anonymous hotel suite with a nice city view and a fully stocked mini bar, Dublin-accented escort Leo Grande (McCormack, from Peaky Blinders) arrives to meet Nancy Stokes. (She is played by Thompson, who, although she’s always worked quite steadily, is having a bit of a moment lately on screen with meatier than usual roles, for example in Late Night or the superb six-part BBC/HBO series Years & Years.)

Nancy lost her husband two years ago, and he was the only man she’d ever had sex with. Now she wants some professional help to see if she can finally experience a real orgasm, having always faked it. Moreover, she’d like to try some other kinds of sex (oral, both giving and receiving, and then both at the same time) and positions (doggy?) that her late husband was never interested in attempting and she was too shy to insist on.

Advertisement

Silkily confident Leo — who not only has the frictionless bedside manner of a Harley Street therapist but is also clearly intelligent and educated judging by his use of words like “empirically” — isn’t fazed by the prospect of meeting all those requests. Nor, he insists, does he need any little blue pills to help him perform since he insists he finds Nancy very attractive.

Excessively critical of her own body — like so many women, especially post-menopausal women — she refuses to believe him. And yet over the course of several meetings weeks apart, Nancy comes to accept him at his word and learn to enjoy not only Leo’s body but her own as well.

Viewers who might assume that this is heading in the direction of a gender-flipped Pretty Woman are in for a refreshing surprise. No — spoiler alert! — Leo and Nancy are not going to fall in love, but they are going to develop a bond and an abiding respect for one another. Breaking down Nancy’s (and, by extension, the audience’s) assumptions, Leo (and, by extension, the filmmakers, who interviewed real-life sex workers for research) concedes that sex work can be dangerous and that there is a dark side to the profession. But like many of his colleagues, Leo honestly enjoys what he does, and takes pride in his well-honed skills. Not only is he good with people and deeply empathic, he’s able to find something beautiful and arousing in any client, even an 82-year-old woman he discreetly tells Nancy about.

Nevertheless, as with any professional therapist, he has strict boundaries, and Nancy finds herself violating them when she does a bit of internet stalking and works out Leo’s real name. (Both of them admit early on that they’re using pseudonyms.)  Furious, he leaves immediately but comes back only to look for his mislaid cellphone, giving Nancy a chance to apologize. Eventually, they trust each other enough to open up more, and Leo can explain why he’s estranged from his mother, who thinks he works on the North Sea oil rigs, while Nancy can rethink her own prejudices and past positions.

That the film has to work toward this kind of revelation in order to create a dramatic arc feels like a minor disservice to the professional relationship, one seldom explored honestly in film, that’s at the story’s core. One could imagine that the cast and filmmakers might have even considered going down a another route and showing Leo and Nancy having un-faked sex — a move not without precedent in arthouse film — although of course that would have made for a very different product.

Instead, every time Leo and Nancy finally finish talking and get down to business, the camera discreetly wanders away and leaves them to it. However, it’s clear from the subsequent dialogue how much these transactions have affected both of them, especially Nancy.

Advertisement

One crucial shot looks on as Nancy finally, finally! has her first orgasm, and somehow Thompson manages to even flush red as if she’s not even acting. Minutes later she stands before a full length mirror, entirely naked and brightly lit enough to show every stretch mark and cellulite bump, and it’s possible she’s never looked sexier and more alluring in her whole career. Some viewers might find it a little hard to buy Thompson as a mousy, repressed schoolteacher in the film’s early reels, but by the end she’s so endearing she’s impossible to resist.

With his work cut out holding his own against such a force, McCormack holds his own very admirably. Indeed, the camera loves him, and the way director Hyde and her regular cinematographer-editor Bryan Mason film him, especially holding close on his always mobile and expressive face as he sits listening to Nancy, is a master class on how to shoot an actor in a way that captures their beauty but doesn’t objectify them. He may be the object of the title’s salutary sentence, but he’s definitely the joint subject of the film.

Movies News

Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Published

on

By

Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

Advertisement

The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

Advertisement

Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Movies News

Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

Published

on

By

According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

Advertisement

To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

Continue Reading

Movies News

Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

Published

on

By

Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

Advertisement

Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

Continue Reading

Trending