Wednesday, May 25

Streaming: The Best Female Action Hero Movies | Action & Adventure Movies

TThe undisputed attraction of this pandemic winter, Wonder Woman 1984 finally out of order not premium VOD and DVD since Monday. Most fans of the DC franchise have no doubt already checked it out and got the kicks they wanted. Patty Jenkins’s long and busy follow-up to her 2017 hit has a little less to offer casual viewers, though for those fatigued by confinement it’s a suitably distracting sight from many moving parts.

The follow-up was always going to have a hard time living up to the largely pleased reception given it by its predecessor (in Amazon prime), which, as the first female-led entry in a culture-consuming surge of superhero blockbusters, was so late as to be truly poignant in its arrival. A sequel could only be more pro forma by comparison. But it seals the place of Gal Gadot’s unbreakable, retro-styled Diana Prince in the firmament of movie action heroines: a literally otherworldly presence in a female-dominated club of a more deadly badass nature.

The fact that the Wonder Woman films, despite their own bubblegum merits, qualify as any kind of milestone at all is a bad reflection of an industry that still often treats female-led action cinema as a subgenre, with a canon that remains largely undisputed. Pretty much any list of great action heroines will end with Ellen Ripley at the top. They should, given that, from 1979 to 1997, Sigourney Weaver’s vigorously tough space warrior blazed a trail in the Alien Films (in Chili) for a type of character Hollywood studios have never written for women before: a potential victim of terror who kicks, punches, and resists her way to active lead status.

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Sigourney Weaver's pioneer Ellen Ripley in Alien (1979).
Sigourney Weaver’s pioneer Ellen Ripley in Alien (1979). Photograph: Sportsphoto Ltd / Allstar

Without her, we probably never would have had Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor emerge as the true heroine of Terminator 2: final judgment (Amazon), pulling the movie out from under its smeared Schwarzenegger marketing. Charlize Theron’s career owes much to Weaver’s, even if she took the unusual route of cultivating Oscar-winning dramatic prestige before emerging as the most battle-ready actress of her generation. Nail the breathless choreographed combat goggles of Atomic blonde (Microsoft Store), while in Mad Max: Fury Road (Now tv), his furious Furiosa, with her head shaved and steely, repeated Connor’s maneuver, taking possession of the film from its main male character.

Quentin Tarantino gave us the understated action genius of Pam Grier’s eponymous Jackie Brown (Now tv) and Uma Thurman’s delusional cartoon revenge of girlfriend hell in the Kill bill Films (Now TV again), although his B-movie influences predate Alien. Indeed, Grier’s own mix of camp and determination in such 1970s blaxploitation shoot-em-ups as Foxy brown (iTunes) deserves more credit than she usually gets for shaping the modern woman of action.

Meanwhile, the mainstream has been slow to make room for black women in the genre. Angela Bassett’s determined bodyguard Mace in Kathryn Bigelow’s sci-fi stunner ahead of her time Strange Days (chili) should be a minor anomaly. Likewise, even the massive US success. Hidden Dragon Crouching Tiger (Now tv) did not inspire Hollywood to build blockbusters around the impressive athleticism of stars like Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi, although Asian cinema continued to do so. Zhang’s star becomes years later The House of Flying Daggers (Google play) offers the most pictorial action in the history of cinema.

Zhang Ziyi in The House of Flying Daggers (2004)
Zhang Ziyi in House of Flying Daggers (2004): ‘the most pictorial kicking action ever’. Photography: Sony / Everett / Rex Features

It’s often world cinema, Luc Besson’s still pointy Nikita (iTunes) to the grueling whirlwind of a single shot of Sebastian Schipper Victory (Curzon home theater) – giving female leads their bravest action workouts. But American cinema can also give a strange surprise within the genre: figures as unlikely as Meryl Streep (in The wild river, in Amazon prime) and a teenage redhead Saoirse Ronan (in Hanna, in Chile and getting better every year) have had a chance to flex their muscles in the face of overwhelming odds. Lastly, an action heroine has never been more real, more honestly edgy than Gena Rowlands’ moll armed and on the move in the John Cassavetes film. Glory (Google play), and she’s even more formidable for it. After all, not all wonderful women wear layers.

Also new in streaming and DVD

Chinese film season
The inaugural edition of what should be an annual streaming event, this online festival of Chinese old and new films began in February to mark the Lunar New Year celebrations and continues through May 12. The selection spans the entire range of recent domestic commercial hits (such as the airborne action thriller Captain) to a retrospective of Shanghai Animation Film Studio to a selection of career highlights from an unpredictable authorship Lou ye. It’s a good opportunity to catch up on a national cinema that still has limited international exposure.

Bombay Rose.
Bombay Rose. Photography: Netflix

Bombay Rose
Storytelling isn’t the selling point of this debut from the Indian animator Gitanjali rao – a time-tangled romance set on the streets of Mumbai – but its hand-painted images will appeal to you. Flooded in earthy pinks and saturated jewel tones, blending traditional animation techniques with more elegant shapes, it’s an unusual triumph of vision and craftsmanship.

The Glories
(Sky Cinema)
Julie Taymor’s delicate cinematic sensibilities seem like an odd fit for a biopic by Gloria Steinem, a no-nonsense feminist icon, and she demonstrates it in this ungainly, overloaded but not uninteresting film that twists Steinem’s performances from four actors to different. ages. Taymor throws a number of tricks and techniques at the wall, although the film’s own political consciousness is a bit weak.

Quo Vadis, Aida?
(Amazon / iTunes / Curzon Home Cinema)
Hopefully the Oscar and Bafta nominations will draw more attention to Jasmila Žbanić’s devastating drama based on the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, which will be available on all major VOD outlets next week. Driven by Jasna Đuričić’s superb performance as a UN performer caught in the maelstrom, it beautifully fuses intimate fiction with vast historical reenactment.

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