Reviews: Charlie’s Angels

Charlie’s Angels,
Directed by Elizabeth Banks,
Starring Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, Patrick Stewart, Djimon Hounsou, Elizabeth Banks

Elizabeth Banks writes, directs and stars in this latest take on the all-woman super-team that was such a popular staple of 1970s TV viewing. Originally touted as a reboot several years after the frantically bonkers fun of the McG Angels films with Lucy Liu, Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore, instead the decision was taken to make this a continuation of both the films and the original TV series. Not that this is a sequel – it is a new story and new Angels that you could take as stand-alone if you so wished, but it tips its hat with some montages and cameos to the TV series and the films, to include them in this history. This is, effectively, a new entry in those stories, set years on with the latest recruits, but, rather satisfyingly, I thought, including that previous history as a background (even including original 1970s Angel Jaclyn Smith in a cameo as one of the senior staff who train the new girls).

Since the events of the previous films the Townsend Agency has gone international, in an expansion lead by the main Bosley (now a rank in the organisation), John Bosley, played by Patrick Stewart (who looks as if he was having a lot of fun here), with other Bosleys in charge in offices in different cities and countries, and a larger roster of highly-trained Angels on call for missions around the globe (although here this is mostly background, with the story, wisely, sticking mostly to the tried and tested tradition of the triumvirate of three women agents and a Bosley to help). We open with a mission to bring in a creepy international fraudster, the sort of man who happily steals from disaster relief funds, brought down by his misogynistic take on women (Kristen Stewart’s Sabina using this weakness to infiltrate then take him down with help from the other Angels, including Ella Balinska’s impressive Jane Kano, a former MI6 operative). This success crowns John Bosley’s final act at the Townsend Agency as he is preparing to retire.

The main story follows Sabina and Jane in Europe, following up on Elena Houghlin (Naomi Scott), a programmer at a hi-tech firm with a radical (and badly needed) new power device for the world, which she has found has a serious problem – it can be hacked to be used as a deadly weapon rather than purely for good as an environmentally-friendly form of energy. Her attempts to tell the head of the company, Alexander Brock (Sam Claflin) about this and how she can fix it are thwarted by an oily supervisor, Fleming (Nat Faxon), and a cold and relentless assassin, Hodak (Jonathan Tucker), which is, of course, where our heroines step in.

I’m not going to risk any spoilers by going too far into the plot, which, anyway, is, as you’d probably expect from this kind of movie, delighting in twisting around with surprises and double-crosses and red-herrings as to who really is pulling the strings here, and why, and just how this involves the Townsend Agency in ways they never expected. Suffice to say it rolls along at a cracking pace, and while the style is different from the McG films (which had a very stylised look and cut), there is a similar mix of action and humour and some bonding between these very different but equally strong and determined women.

We get high-kicks, car chases, abseiling off tall buildings, clever gadgets (mostly non-lethal, these are the Angels, after all, they prefer not to just shoot people) and globe-trotting locations and stylish outfits. In other words we get pretty much what we want from this sort of film: it’s a great, fun ride of action and humour, with Stewart and Balinska particularly strong as two very different personalities that still manage to be complimentary despite those differences, and there is always that great underlying message that Angels, new and old, are unstoppable when they work together. A perfect Saturday night popcorn movie to enjoy.

Charlie’s Angels is released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on digital on from March 23rd, and on Blu-Ray and DVD from April 6th

This review was originally penned for Live For Films

Rock and Roll

There’s been a ton of stuff online about nasty copy protection mechanisms by various manufacturers, from Tivo-type stuff controlling what you can record to the farce that was Sony’s secret use of software on many of their CDs which then installed to purchaser’s computers wihtout their knowledge (and a grudgingly issued un-install they offered which left those computers more vulnerable to internet attack than a new Windows OS). The latest to act like complete numpties are Coldplay, doing their best to show how truly rock and roll their attitude is (and even better, according to Boing Boing’s article, you can’t read these warning terms until you buy the damned CD!). Coldplay? Don’t play it, I say.

Shock and awe (TM)

Well the first Gulf War was referred to as a video game war. Night-sight graphics tinged in green, on-screen displays with read-outs taken direct from fighters and even the missiles – it did look like a video game. Were those really people dying there or was it just a multimedia extravaganza, lead by the happy, smiling face of Norman Schwazkopf.

Today in the Guardian I read about how Sony (amongst others) are planning to capitalise on this new war by registering the phrase shock and awe with the US patent office, so it is now Shock and Awe (TM). Sony say they are not necessarily going to make a game of Desert Storm II – although other software makers have already announced just this. Oh no, Sony are sensitive – they are only registering their trademark now in case they wish to use them on a future product, if it is suitable. Nice how they went to the patent office while the bombs were still falling, a fine touch.

War and commerce, my how well these pillars of our civilisations work together. The British Empire, the world’s largest, was powered by mighty commerce and awesome military power. It was also supposedly based on our 18th century Enlightenment theories of liberty. Liberty, massive armed forces and commerce. 18th century Imperial era – 21st century post-modern world. Anyone spot the difference? In France in 1940 we had the Phoney War. Today we have the Sony War. Plus ca change.