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Posts Tagged ‘Sigourney Weaver’

Following the release of The Expendables 2 earlier this there was a lot of buzz about an all female Expendables. At the time I speculated on the stars of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s who could star in it, but given the action movies from this year I thought I would look at it from a different point of view. Who are this years top female action stars?

If you remember the original Total Recall (Sharon Stone) has one good action scene before getting killed off. In the remake director Len Wiseman has extended the part and cast his wife Kate Beckinsale, she reciprocates by playing the part with relish and being the best thing in the movie totally eclipsing Jessica Biel’s Melina. Beckinsale also stars as Selene in Underworld: Awakening, back for a third time in the fourth installment of the vampire v werewolf franchise. It is possibly the weakest of the series but Beckinsale still does a great job. Resident Evil: Retribution is the latest in Another franchise that has lasted longer than anyone thought possible, the reason to keep watching, Milla Jovovich. From successful franchises to ones that can’t get off the ground; although not a financial success, Dredd is a big improvement on the previous attempt to make a Judge Dredd movie, Olivia Thirlby’s rookie judge Anderson gives the movie a new dimension and direction.

The star of the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Noomi Rapace has made the jump to Hollywood. Elizabeth Shaw is the central character at the heart of Prometheus, she is no Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) but still makes a compelling star. I first saw Naomie Harris in 28 Days Later… 10 years ago, she has had a few decent roles in the decade that followed she has had the odd good role, its great to see her get one Eve in Skyfall. Anyone who has seen Winter’s Bone would probably agree that Jennifer Lawrence was the only person who could have played Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. A reluctant hero, she may not have the ass kicking credentials of Gina Carano or Kate Beckinsale but she has more grit and determination than any actress/character on this list. Lawrence also appeared as Raven / Mystique in X-Men: First Class, with The Hunger Games first sequel Catching Fire due out next year and X-Men: Days of Future Past in 2014 expect to see a lot more of her. Its also worth remembering Rebecca Romijn’s all action take on the part to give an insight on where the character is going.

Given the amount of hits this site has received in the last few years from people searching for “Anne Hathaway Catwoman” its fair to say Anne Hathaway’s Selina aka Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises has been the most anticipated female action role of year. I’m not sure she has replaced Michelle Pfeiffer as the ultimate Catwoman but she certainly didn’t disappoint. The other highly anticipated, big budget franchise movie of the summer was The Avengers (aka Avengers Assemble here in the UK). As a regular human I was concerned at what Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) would have to do in The Avengers surrounded by gods, monsters and super solders not to mention a billionaire playboy with a powered suit of armour. As it turns out her and Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton / Hawkeye are at the heart of the story and are both brilliant.

The biggest action star of the year (male or female) came out of nowhere, former mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano as Mallory Kane in Haywire. There is something old-fashioned about Steven Soderbergh’s action revenge thriller Haywire, using long takes, still cameras and short lenses that give lots of depth of field. This is the perfect showcase for Gina Carano to show of her fighting ability. It takes the movie back to a pre Bourne time for action movies and has resulted in a love it or hate it reaction. Whatever your thoughts it looks like we have seen the birth of a new action star. An honourable mention for Melissa George who impressed again in last years A Lonely Place to Die, she doesn’t have any movies coming out this year but is currently starring on BBC1 in Hunted. The show is formulaic in the style of Spooks but she is really good in it.

Other performances that didn’t make the grade but are worth a quick mention are: Although there was nothing wrong with her performance Nan Yu’s Maggie in The Expendables 2 was a caricature rather than a character. Kristen Stewart was actually quite good as Snow White but the film wasn’t up to much and she was totally overshadowed by Charlize Theron. Rihanna looked good in Battleship but the film was pretty crap and the girl can’t act. Wrath of the Titans was marginally better than Clash of the Titans and Rosamund Pike is reasonably good as Andromeda having been given a much larger role than Alexa Davalos in the first film. Maggie Grace managed to avoid getting Taken in Taken 2 but she more than makes up for this by being held hostage in Lockout. In both movies she does have a few action scenes. Combining this with a part as a vampire in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 she may be moving more towards action roles.

Did I miss anyone out. Can anybody recommend any movies or performances I have missed from the past year?

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There is a huge buzz about an all female version of The Expendables with a suggestion that the film may have already been given the green-light. Who would fill Stallone and Statham’s boots in a female version? The main charters in The Expendables 2 are played by: Sylvester Stallone (66), Jason Statham (44), Jet Li (49), Dolph Lundgren (54), Chuck Norris (72), Terry Crews (44), Randy Couture (49), Bruce Willis (57) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (65). Who are the contenders for a female version? I have included ages for comparison:

Top of the list has to be Sigourney Weaver (62) who thanks to the Alien movies is probably the most credible female action star. She would be closely followed by Linda Hamilton (55) from the first two Terminator movies. Cynthia Rothrock (55) is probably the female Dolph Lundgren, in that she doesn’t necessarily have the acting ability but more than makes up for it with a long list of direct to video action movies in the 80’s. Former Mrs Stallone, Brigitte Nielsen (49) is worth considering based on her appeared alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in Red Sonja (1985). Star of Coffy and Foxy Brown, Pam Grier (63) is probably the oldest contender, although I have heard Helen Mirren (67) mentioned. She isn’t someone I would have thought of but her appearance in Red does give her a certain credibility. Michelle Yeoh (49) has been an action star since the mid 80’s, she found mainstream fame in the west with Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2002). Anne Parillaud (52) only made one action movie (two if you include horror comedy Innocent Blood (1992)) but considering that film was Nikita (1990) she gets my vote.

A decade ago I wouldn’t have considered Uma Thurman (42) as an action star but thanks to Kill Bill (2003) she is jumps towards the top of the list. Two people who you probably would have thought about for an action movie a decade ago are Jennifer Garner (40) and Jessica Alba (31) thanks to their TV shows; J.J. Abrams’ Alias and James Cameron’s Dark Angel respectively but their movie careers seems to be going in other directions. Garner looked like she was going to be an action star with Daredevil (2003) but the spin-off Elektra (2005) probably destroyed her chances and she has been a fixture of rom-coms ever since. Alba may be moving back towards action with Machete (2010) and its sequel due out next year. The star of 90’s TV show Xena: Warrior Princess, Lucy Lawless (44) is back in the popular consciousness thanks to Battlestar Galactica and Spartacus.

As the 90’s came to an end they gave us one of cinema’s most iconic action characters, Trinity in The Matrix. Played by a virtually unknown (despite a career spanning the previous decade) Carrie-Anne Moss (45). The next action star to emerge was Michelle Yeoh’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon co-star Ziyi Zhang (33) who also starred in Hero (2002) and House of Flying Daggers (2004). From there the floodgates seemed to open . Despite not looking like an action star Angelina Jolie (37) made two Tomb Rader movies (2001 and 2003) Mr. and Mrs Smith (2005), Wanted (2008) and Salt (2010), a film originally intended for Tom Cruise. Tomb Rader’s video game derived rival Resident Evil (2002) has spawned four sequels to date (the most recent due out later this month) and a sixth and possibly final film in the next few years. All the films star Milla Jehovah (36) who had already stared in The Fifth Element (1997) (along side Expendables star Bruce Willis). Michelle Rodriguez (34) has appeared and Resident Evil and The Fast and the Furious (2001) and her character is been brought back from the dead in both franchises. With Girl fight (2000), S.W.A.T. (2003), Avatar (2009) and Machete (2010) she is one of the most credible action stars on this list. Skinny, self-confessed chain smoker Kate Beckinsale (39) is an unlikely action star but with Total Recall (2012) she has reinforced what she did in Underworld (2003) and its sequels. Other contenders include Rhona Mitra (37), the star of Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009) and Doomsday (2008). And Maggie Q (33) from Naked Weapon (2002) and the new TV incarnation of Nikita.

 

It does all go to show that to be a action star, if you have the look, the attitude and a good DP and fight choreographer, anyone can become an action star. But then there are the woman who can do it for real: Zoe Bell (33) is best know as a stuntwoman, but she has made some movie appearances, most notably Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof (2007). With her starring role in Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire (2011) former mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano (30) has become and overnight action star.

Here is a suggested line-up female alongside their male counterparts:

Sylvester Stallone – Sigourney Weaver

Jason Statham – Gina Carano

Jet Li – Uma Thurman or Carrie-Anne Moss

Arnold Schwarzenegger – Linda Hamilton

Dolph Lundgren – Cynthia Rothrock

Bruce Willis – Michelle Yeoh

Terry Crews – Rhona Mitra or Michelle Rodriguez

Randy Couture – Zoe Bell

Chuck Norris – Pam Grier

Who have I overlooked?

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“In space no-one can hear you scream.”

In preparation/anticipation of the release of Prometheus a few weeks ago I watched the first two Alien movies again. I have the directors cut of Aliens, the first sequel directed by James Cameron on DVD however I only have an old VHS copy of Ridley Scott’s original film.

Commercial towing spaceship Nostromo is on route from Thedus to Earth with a cargo of twenty million tons of mineral ore and a refinery. Its crew of seven are in stasis until they are awoken when they pick up what they believe to be a distress beacon.

Looking back at Alien, aside from the grainy image of my old VHS copy, the most notable thing about the movie after all this time is not the suspense or the horror, it’s the characters. They are different characters with their own ideas, personality, prospective and their own agenda as you would expect of a the crew of a ship (in space or a regular ship in the real world). In many ways the most significant of these are Parker (Yaphet Kotto) and Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) who give the movie a more relevant and political edge. Kane (John Hurt) has one of the most memorable scenes in film history but within the plot it is the only important thing he does. Ash (Ian Holm) comes to represent “the corporation” this is a defining element of the movie and one that has continued through all the sequels spiff offs and the new prequel Prometheus, it is also like Parker and Brett the thing that gives the movie edge and relevance beyond the genre. As captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt) is an interesting character, he is more a company man than the rest of the crew but is still his own man never forgetting how far from home he is. Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) could have been there to just make up the numbers, but she does more than that, she helps give the movie balance and prospective. And finally the star, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver). It seems hard to believe now but aside from a couple of bit parts Alien was her first movie. The casting was perfect, not only did it define her future career, but it helped elevate the movie beyond its genre origins.

On the surface it is a sci-fi movie but owing far more to the horror and thriller genres. Contemporary space movies of the day like Star Wars (1977) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) have a bright an hopeful outlook, Alien has more in common with John Carpenter movies Halloween (1978) and Assault on Precinct 13 (1976). The basic concept owes a debt to Agatha Christie’s 1939 novel “And Then There Were None” (originally published with a less politically correct title), itself being inspired by the nursery rhyme, Ten Little Indians. In comparison to the later films (including the Predator crossovers and the prequel Prometheus) it has a much smaller story and scope, this far from being a problem, it is actually a benefit. Its not that we don’t care where the “space jockey” or the Alien come from, it is that they are not relevant to the survival of the crew. We are focussed in on a very small part of a larger greater universe and know no more, or less than the characters in the film. It is this simplicity and intimacy that helps create a bond between character and viewer making us care what happens to them.

The effects should stand out in a film that is more than thirty years old, but they don’t. The models used to recreate the exteriors and the H.R. Giger designed “space jockey” are fantastic and a relief in this over CGI age. The interiors of the Nostromo look dated just like they do in Discovery One in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and many Star Trek movies. The important thing though is the Alien also designed by Gieger, I have heard “man in rubber suit criticism”. This really isn’t fair, sticking with the first rule of monster movies, the alien spends most of its time in the shadows, when we do see it, it really stands up. The planet is a dark rain soaked inhospitable place that exists largely in shadow and half-light, the Nostromo is made up of dim corridors, this lends itself perfectly to the movie. The style of the lighter brighter Prometheus would not work in Alien.

Like no other sci-fi or horror movie before Alien redefined two genres and possibly invented there own genre. It has aged surprisingly well and could teach the makers of a few flabby overcomplicated movies a thing or two about suspense and atmosphere. The grainy VHS version seems somehow appropriate for a movie that I first saw on late night television in the 1980’s.

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