The latest Charlie’s Angels reboot is the latest movie with the potential to move us from groaning about originality to cheering for ass-kicking action progress. The trailers all look fun, and it’s still possible for fluff to justify its existence by making us eat all the popcorn in the tub, so maybe it’ll pull some magic out of its gigantic closet of explode-y weapons.
At the very least, it’ll be interesting to see how Elizabeth Banks does things differently from McG…
Oddly enough, it’s been the same amount of time (19 years) between the last season of the TV series and McG’s “modern” reboot film as it’s been between that film and the new incarnation. I’m looking forward to Charlie’s Angels in 2038 already.
Every version of the story has boasted three key elements: 1. women beating bad dudes 2. a ton of costume-based spy work and 3. the nonchalant fun that makes crime-busting look super delightful.
So, let’s look at 6 movies to watch with the new Charlie’s Angels if you’re sleuthing out a double feature.
It’s a rare trifecta to find a team of spies having fun as the intensity of the mission increases. Like Charlie’s Angels, Sneakers hits all three notes.
A murderer’s row of comedic and dramatic talent anchor a story about hacking, breaking into places, and having dinner with Stephen Tobolowsky to ensure that the world doesn’t end. Martin Bishop (Robert Redford) and his ragtag crew get hired by the United States government to track down a MacGuffin gizmo (a MacGizmo?) that can break any code and hack into any computer. Where a lot of comedy spy flicks are pure parody, writer/director legend Phil Alden Robinson’s light touch makes it a thrilling yet silly ride.
The Villainess (2017)
This one isn’t silly. Since La Femme Nikita is always on lists like these (as it should be) let’s use our time to cheer for this South Korea beauty of a revenge film. The plot is boilerplate stuff. A young girl raised to kill. A secret from her past. A wrong that must be righted by shooting just a whole ton of people.
Although the plot is simple, the filmmaking philosophy focuses on dropping jaws further and further with each action sequence. There’s a motorcycle sword fight,people. And our hero takes down a moving bus filled with bad guys like she’s Legolas surfing down an oliphaunt.
Josie and the Pussycats (2001)
A flawless satire of consumerism, Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont’s movie dared to deliver an unpopular message about individuality and the grotesque nature of American advertising to exactly the audience that needed to hear it: teenagers.
In the movie, Josie (Rachel Leigh Cook) and the Pussycats (potential first lady Rosario Dawson and Tara Reid) are a struggling small town band. They get discovered, hit the big time, and realize it comes with a disgusting price.
Released a year after McG’s Charlie’s Angels reboot, it came at the tail end of Generation X nihilism. Fueled by the smiling sarcasm that appealed to Millenials before they hit the job market, it punched the music industry almost as hard as Napster.
Plus, fellow kids, all the songs slap. Gatorade is the new Snapple. Starbucks rules.
Carve Her Name With Pride (1958)
Violette Szabo (Virginia McKenna) parachutes into Nazi-occupied France to boost French Resistance efforts. Her crew destroys infrastructure. They spread misinformation. Naturally, they also try not to get caught, because getting caught means certain death.
Based on a true story of powerful courage and tradecraft skill, the soft-focus version of what really happened features an actress who looks nothing like the real Violette. Nonetheless, Carve Her Name With Pride stands out as a celebration of heroism.
Banks’ Short Films (2010/2011)
Take a look back at Banks’ career as she emerges as a talented mainstream director. Her first feature was Pitch Perfect 2, which felt clunky but still went for some dangerously weird comedic beats. There’s less room to do that in a Charlie’s Angels movie (right?), but even her early shorts show a flair for tension, commercialism, and social good.
Her first was 2010’s AIDS: We Did It!, a static, black comic look at non-profit employees pissed off that they’ve cured AIDS. She then made Just a Little Heart Attack to raise awareness for the #1 killer of women. She also stars as a busy working mom experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack before collapsing and apologizing to the 911 operator. Her clear directorial potential makes even a PSA about heart attacks funny.
The Perils of Pauline (1914)
One of the first adventurers, Pauline (Pearl White) stands to inherit enormous wealth when she marries, but she wants to see the world before settling down. The dastardly caretaker of the inheritance tries to use those adventures to kill Pauline so he can keep the cash, but throughout the serial she escapes every time.
Tons of movies and TV shows copied it. Unfortunately, our skewed vision of the serial is of a woman tied to train tracks. However, this early adventurer was no damsel in distress. She happily saves herself from many of the traps set for her and inspired scores of swashbucklers who came after her.
Are you ready for this jelly?
In collecting a group of movies that evoke the same sense of power, bravery, action, and goofiness, I’ve learned that we need more ensemble James Bond-type movies and sillier spies all around. Not just the Ethan Hunts of the world who chuckle a little after being on the outside of a plane while it takes off. We need more spies who have a blast and who play well with others.
It’s also possible that we need more spy movies with dance routines.
What are you watching?
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