Hardcore Henry (2015), a Review

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Director – Ilya Naishuller

Writer – Ilya Naishuller

Starring – Sharlto Copey, Danila Kozlovsky, Haley Bennet, Tim Roth

For years people have been crying out for a decent video-game movie, that film that would truly capture the essence of gaming and translate that seamlessly to the cinema screen. Finally, that film has regaled us with it’s glorious presence, yet ironically it isn’t based on any pre-existing video game franchise at all. Rather, what we get is merely an action film that looks and feels exactly like a FPS (First-Person Shooter to those of you who have better things to do than play video-games in your twenties.) An adrenaline fueled joyride from start to finish, Ilya Naishuller may just have revolutionised the action genre with his first-person triumph, Hardcore Henry.

Waking up in a tank of water inside a laboratory on an airship, Henry recalls a gang of bullies from his childhood. A scientist, Estelle (Haley Bennet), greets Henry and says she is his wife, and that he has been revived from an accident that left him amnesiac and mute. After replacing a missing arm and leg with hi-tech cybernetic prostheses, a group of mercenaries led by the telekinetic Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) raid the ship, claiming all of Estelle’s research is his corporate property. Eventually, Henry fights his way out and runs into the mysterious Jimmy (Sharlto Copey), who leads him down a violent rabbit hole into insanity.

Quite obviously, what stands out instantaneously from Hardcore Henry is the fantastic use of the first-person perspective, achieved by strapping a go-pro to the lead actor’s head. It’s a unique idea, as it allows the benefits of a first-person view without the annoyances that come from the ‘found footage’ genre; I.E, jittery and shaky camerawork. In this instance the camera is fully stabilised, meaning while we get the twists and turns that accompany first-person in terms of visuals, we don’t get the sickening jitters that come with a shoulder-cam. It means we’re put right in Henry’s shoes, enjoying every crunching punch and every crippling gunshot with him, but we never feel like we’re on a particularly unstable plane, feeling cripplingly naesous, Ala Cloverfield.

One could easily state that Hardcore Henry is to action films what Maniac (2013) was to the slasher genre. It is, for better or worse, depending on your opinion, at least revolutionary, and deserves acclaim for trying something new. Thankfully, it works a treat, and once one gets over the initial bemusement of the format, you find that it places you into the action in a way traditional cinematography never could. Every punch is felt, every fall as well. It is, as alluded to earlier, like watching a live-action video game. Right down to the insane plotline involving telekinetic billionaire terrorists and cybernetically enhanced super soldiers.

And the narrative is insane, and potentially off-putting for the more pretentious among you. Personally, I loved it. It was relatively simple, yet had enough twists and turns to keep you engaged, and it just seemed to be perfectly enigmatic. Sure, it’s certainly threadbare and takes some suspension of disbelief at times, but no more than any other film within the traditionally over-the-top action genre.

The action itself is absolutely incredible; perfectly timed, wonderfully executed and magnificently choreographed. I can tell you, having directed several music videos, that pulling off these elaborate fight sequences must have been a gruelling and thankless task, and kudos to Naishuller for bringing it all together beautifully. It’s ultra-violent, yet cartoony enough to never cross into disturbing, and hits the perfect comedic nails that the likes of Evil Dead 2 mastered years ago. It’s as tongue-in-cheek as you can get without crossing into full parody territory, and is legitimately hilarious in places. You will, without doubt, fist-pump the air at least twice.

The video-game aspect permeates it all, as you can probably tell, from the story to the visuals to the narrative flow itself. The film follows a clear pattern of expositional dialogue, action, more dialogue, action etc that matches your classic video game shooter template perfectly. It also falls into Todorov’s theory quite neatly; Henry the silent hero, Estelle the princess, Akan the villain and Jimmy the dispatcher (AKA, ‘The Gandalf Role’). It’s simple for an audience to follow, yet intelligent enough to stimulate, with Henry’s mute status allowing him to almost serve as an avatar for us, the audience.

The performances are also stellar, with Coper as always impressing highly. Since his breakout in District Nine, he’s become an extremely versatile and talented performer, a a personal favourite of mine. Here, he once again highlights this, performing Jimmy’s multiple personalities and avatars. Throughout this, he displays a wide array of varying mannerisms and accents, and again reiterates the idea that he is among of the finest thespians performing today in cinema.

The rest of the cast is solid, as well, though Henry never gets a performance so to speak. Due to injury and other factors, multiple people donned the go-pro and ‘played’ Henry, including Naishuller himself. So it’s a strange enigma, that the protagonist in a good movie gets precisely no dialogue and no performance to speak of, yet, it doesn’t hinder the film at all. It’s just another beautiful quirk in a vary unique movie.

The sound is always thumpin’ as well, a fun electro-rock soundtrack that, unsurprisingly by this point, would not feel remotely out of place in a video-game. It’s nothing particular special, but is merely another finely woven piece of textiles in the tapestry of the film.

Hardcore Henry marks a potential evolution of both the first-person film, a type of film arguably not tried often enough to it’s full potential, and the action genre itself. Naishuller has crafted the closest thing we’ll ever see to a video game on screen, and, while not perfect, it deserves a place in the annals of cinematic history for it’s sheer balls and insane genius. Copey is fantastic as per usual, and the whole experience is so bizarre and stand-out that any self-respecting cinephile should try it once. I have a feeling it will go down as a ‘love it or hate it’ kinda movie, but fortunately, I loved it, and can only hope you do as well.

 

Final Rating – 4.5/5

 

Joshua Moulinie

Cafe Society (2016), a Review

cafe

Director – Woody Allen

Writer – Woody Allen

Starring – Kristen Stewart, Jesse Esienberg,  Jeannie Berlin, Steve Carell

 

Woody Allen, like most of us, is at his best when elaborating on a subject he loves. We all wax blandly when lumped with a theme uninspiring to us. But, when offered a chance to digress on something we love, our once palsied tongues ignite with operatic fury, and we are soon lost in the elaborations and divagations of eager, enthusiastic invention.

Woody Allen’s great love is The Golden Age Era of Hollywood – the films and Jazz of the 1920’s and 30’s. Many of his most charming movies have been period pieces – Bullets Over Broadway, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Sweet and Lowdown, Midnight in Paris. So, on learning that Cafe Society was also to be set in this most cherished era, any fears I had that this might be one of his weaker efforts were considerably lessened.

The story follows Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg) who is sent to Hollywood from New York in the hopes that his high-powered, film-producing Uncle Phil (Steve Carell) will be able to get him some work. When his uncle’s secretary ‘Vonnie’ (Kristen Stewart) is asked to show him around to make him feel at home, Bobby almost instantaneously falls in love with her, captivated by her unaffected charm and simplicity in a town of bedazzled pretension.

However, this love is stymied by the fact that, unbeknownst to him, Vonnie is already having a secret affair with his uncle. As the story progresses, partners are gained, switched, and lost; marital alliances forged; and secret romances continued. Bobby becomes the charismatic owner of a ritzy nightclub – and the narrative is complicated and brightened by interludes regarding the exploits of Bobby’s Jewish, and haphazardly gangster-affiliated family.

As a romantic, the first thing that appealed to me about this film was the direct simplicity with which it stages the delights and dramas of love. We all of us, at some point, will meet someone whom we love so much that it torments and exalts us . . . and be forced to contend with the ever-lurking complications of life, always conspiring to puncture something that would otherwise be paradise. Allen beautifully depicts all these very human experiences without ever being overwrought – employing a lightness of touch he has refined in his later period.

Though they might seem ill-met on paper, Stewart and Eisenberg make a perfectly gracious couple onscreen – Jesse charming with his oddball mixture of awkward, neurotic discomfort later giving wing to a plain-spoken, pushy charisma – and Kristen, with her melancholy, poetic eyes, husky voice, and untutored beauty and manner.

The music is the typically buoyant early jazz of which Allen is so fond; and, in the lightness of the film, often gives the effect that the actors’ dialogue is like the improvisation of jazz soloists, finding their sweetness in space and rhythm. The camera-work, too, is completely unpretentious. No longer having to prove himself after the virtuosic homages of earlier Fellini/Bergman-inspired films such as Stardust Memories, Allen is quite happy just to let the Californian and New York skylines speak for themself, making great use of natural lighting, and the richness of the art deco architecture the film abounds in.

As an actor, I found myself philosophizing over Allen’s choice of Jesse Eisenberg and Steve Carell as the two male leads. It struck me as an act of mildly intuitive genius. Compared to the excessive self-torture and transformation of modern day method actors, who are not content unless they are unrecognisable in every new feature, one of the powers of Classic Hollywood actors is that they had the power of just being themselves. Cary Grant was always Cary Grant. James Stewart was always James Stewart. The power of their personalities was so immense, that they didn’t have to do anything. They simply had to stand in front of the camera and be themselves.

And, while not being as canonically larger than life as the two aforementioned giants, it struck me that Carell and Eisenberg both belong to this tradition – that both of them are masters at being themselves onscreen – and that their respective fields of presence are fine enough arenas of expression in which they can dramatically manoeuvre. And besides, majestic as method actors might be, few of them know how to be funny – and Carell and Eisenberg are both more than competent at that.

Anyway, such deviations aside, Cafe Society is a joyous and delicately dreamy romance, true to life, with plenty of gentle humour. Like a sweet-smelling candle in a cosy room, it burns just brightly enough to inspire a melody, congenial to the unbroken hum of the heart.

Final Rating – 4/5

 

Reuben F.Tourettes

The Neon Demon (2016), a Review

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Director – Nicolas Winding Refn

Writer – Nicolas Winding Refn, Mary Laws, Polly Stenham

Starring – Elle Fanning, Keanu Reeves, Jena Malone, Abbey Lee, Bella Heathcote

Nicolas Winding Refn, the latest Dane to break out of the Copenhagen film scene and trailblaze his way across the worldwide cinematic landscape, is one of a very select crowd of established directors who can claim with some honesty to have never made a bad movie. Whilst the quality of his work ranges from the magnificent, Drive, to the great-but-flawed Only God Forgives, he’s yet to make a film that isn’t worth your time. After Drive’s success transformed him into a cinematic deity, every move he makes now is watched with great interest. Ergo, The Neon Demon‘s Cannes Debut was highly anticipated. While, predictably, the crowd there would split evenly between boos and a standing ovation, this particular reviewer was not split. This is another wonderful work of pure cinema by the great Dane.

Sixteen-year-old aspiring model Jesse (Elle Fanning) has just moved from small-town Georgie to Los Angeles. Her first photoshoot, done by Dean (Karl Glusman), features Jesse glammed-up and sprawled on a chaise lounge with fake blood dripping from her neck. In the dressing room she meets makeup artist Ruby (Malone), who takes her to a party at a club where she introduces her to fellow models Sarah (Lee) and Gigi (Bella Heathcote). Quickly, jealousy begins to spring it’s head as Jesse achieves more and more success, whilst simultaneously growing more and more narcissistic.

When one sits down to partake in a Nicolas Winding Refn film, there are three major components one can expect; Characters being pushed into situations that force them to become cold monsters in order to survive, an incredible soundtrack and quite possibly the best visual elements in the world right now. Everything he makes, everything he touches, is less a piece of cinematic entertainment, more a work of visual poetry, designed to inspire feelings via ambience, as opposed to tell you a straightforward narrative. Often, this means that when one describes what happened in a Refn film afterwards, your audience will look at you with an expression that screams ‘Really? Is that it?, because on paper, the narrative is often deceptively simple.

The Neon Demon is no exception to the rule, and actually, one could go on to make a strong argument that the story, for the first seventy minutes at least, breaks absolutely no new ground and doesn’t tell us anything about the fashion industry that those clued up would not know. You get the seedy photographers, who use their important status to intimidate and degrade the models, even going as far as to molest them. You get the manipulative agents, caring only about image and in no way considering the emotional/physical well being of the clients. And, of course, you get the models themselves, an obnoxious concoction of insecurity and narcissism, jealousy and ruthlessness, and a insatiable appetite for eating each other alive.

However, the true nature of these characters is left ambiguous for a large amount of screen-time, as the screenplay leads you in one direction, before beautifully pulling the rug out towards the end. What it does magnificently, is that it drops a huge amount of abstract clues, less ideas, and more images and sequences that at first seemingly make no sense, but, if one pays close attention and remains patient, is all paid off entirely with an end sequence that is absolutely phenomenal in both its darkness and execution. Every character is a piece of a larger enigmatic jigsaw; everything said is meticulous and tells you about who this person is, whilst never slapping you in the face with obvious exposition.

There are occasions where one could argue the dialogue is somewhat on-the-nose, but it does little to dampen your enjoyment of a screenplay that leads you to a conclusion you honestly do not expect, but is very cleverly foreshadowed via dream sequences, sequences that are both disturbing, yet absolutely seeping with a macabre art that cannot be denied. Often, this resembles a Salvador Dali painting more than it does a motion picture, as Refn continues to stake his claim to being the bastard love child of David Lynch and Dario Argento.

Refn’s films are always visual masterclasses, each shot drenched in atmosphere, with the vibrant neon lighting meshing seamlessly with the perfect cinematography. The Neon Demon continues this trend, and I’m willing to put my neck on the line and say that you will not see a better looking movie anywhere this year. Every shot is perfect, and while it may seem strange that I’ve said very little about what is, without doubt, The Neon Demon’s best component, that’s because my words simply cannot do justice to the brilliance of it all. You have to see it for yourself, but if you thought Drive and Only God Forgives were visual masterpieces (they were), you haven’t seen a damn thing yet.

The performances are a bit strange, and I imagine most mainstream cinema-goers will be put off somewhat. Refn favours his characters speaking dialogue in the same off-beat manner David Lynch deploys, a manner that is deliberately jarring, and leaves you as a result often bemused for the first ten minutes or so, before you brain catches on to what is being tried here and decides to play ball. It’s as though the conversations in these films are supposed to feel more like genuine human interaction; stilted, with natural pauses and delivery. Unfortunately, our brains are so conditioned to the cinematic speech types we see deployed in most films, that this does throw us off at first, but if you’re willing to roll with it, you will be rewarded.

With this said, most of the performers do very well, if it’s all a bit off-kilter. Jena Malone is impressive as Ruby, who is easily the film’s most complex and intriguing character. Her gradual transformation from mild-mannered and insecure, to manipulative and bewitching, is intriguing and works on all levels. Other special credit must be given to Abbey Lee, as her character Sarah evolves from airhead to terrifying psychopath, the latter being uncomfortably convincing. I have to say though that seeing Keanu Reeves of all people stumble into this was at first over distracting, as you just do not expect an actor like Keanu to be in a place like this, other than Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly, which seemed more of an anomaly than anything else. Still, he does well and convinces, he’s just seemingly an odd choice to add to the mix.

Elle Fanning is simply incredible as the lead, Jesse. She begins very shy, and quiet and somewhat blank in her expression, and Fanning puts this across inch-perfectly. So perfectly, in fact, that I considered if it was a bad performance for a while, as she seemed somewhat wooden, before it dawned on me that was the entire point. However, as she heads further down the rabbit hole of the fashion industry, she becomes more self-assured, which in turn leads to fully fledged narcissism, a narcissism that would cost her everything.

The transformation is startling, and those who wrote reviews about this film stating that ‘There was no character development’ clearly were not paying attention, as this is less development, and more of a complete transformation. The tragic part is that you still root for her, long after she’s fallen madly in love with her own hype, as you have seen yourself how she was forced to become this merely in order to survive. It’s not hyperbole to claim it’s almost Shakespearean. The transformation is, crucially, entirely believable, as Fanning changes every microcosm of her behaviour to mirror her character’s growth. Her posture, demeanour, and facial expressions drastically alter as she goes through her journey, meaning that we believe it and buy in. In terms of kinetic acting, it’s almost a masterclass. If Fanning can keep working with directors of Refn’s quality, she could go on to have an incredible career.

The soundtrack is, as expected, an incredible work of electro pop, once again composed predominantly by the fingertips of Cliff Martinez. Honestly, in terms of the soundtrack, if you’ve heard one Refn soundtrack you’ll know exactly what to expect, as the director clearly leans towards ambient electro, which is an incredibly ballsy juxtaposition of ideals, a juxtaposition that the great Italian Dario Agento first pioneered way back when. If Agento pioneered it though, Refn has perfected it.

Sia also provides an original soundtrack piece that could in time match Kavinsky’s iconic Nightcall from Drive. Wave Goodbye is an incredible little piece of electro pop, a genre that Sia seems to excel in, and if given a wide mainstream release could easily be a number one hit. There’s also a great little number from Sweet Tempest, Mine, which again could be a huge chart hit if released that year. Refn seems to have an incredible talent for dragging the best out of directors of photography, actors and even now pop stars.

I’ve often said on this site that no film is without flaws, a statement that has become my get out of jail card when I want to transition into negative points about a film that I’d already declared as incredible and near flawless. On this occasion though, other than perhaps some stilted dialogue, and an ending that is both absolutely jaw-dropping and oddly feeling like it could have been the start to a sequel as opposed to the end of a film, neither of which cause any major issues in terms of your viewing pleasure, I can’t think of many flaws. No film is perfect, yet, as far as audio/visual assault on the senses go, this is pretty close.

Often resembling a Salvador Dali painting more than it does a motion picture, as Refn continues to stake his claim to being the bastard love child of David Lynch and Dario Argento, The Neon Demon is another masterwork by a director who can’t seem to put a foot wrong. Some way view it as a pretentious mess, wrapped up in its own self-importance, but that would be somewhat missing the point. This is not cinema that holds your hand and guides you gently towards the ending, no. This is cinema that, like an abusive partner, leaves you bemused, confused, perplexed and disturbed, yet is simultaneously beautiful and irresistible. An immaculately composed and directed enigma of a film, that builds to a surreal crescendo that leaves your jaw firmly planted to the floor, and your eyes wide open, whilst taking you into the foul and depraved belly of the beast that we call the fashion industry. The Neon Demon is a film that demands you see it, and Refn is a director that demands you respect him.

 

Final Rating – 5/5

 

Joshua Moulinie

The Throne of Forgotten Dreams

The renegade,

He trailblazes, alone,
Lost, in a forgotten valley,
Surrounded by those two,
Most haunting, most troubling,
Most harrowing and tauning of words,
WHAT IF?

The maverick,
He smokes, alone,
Sits and ponders, those days,
Remembered to him,
Forgotten sadly,

But she who he holds dear.

The neurotic,
He sits, alone,
Upon his throne,
Of broken promises,
And those upon whom he stamped,
In his reckless hatred,
For those, who hate him also.

The broken,
He loves, alone,
His love tainted,
By the hate,
The apotheosis of all disdain,
That haunting siren,
The wailing of a crushed desire.

The abuser,
He hurts, alone,
But once not so,
It was her, who he touched,
Her love, perplexing,
Her tongue cannot be true,
So he stamped out,
That, which he could not fathom,
In even his wildest dreams,
In slumber that so often eludes him.

The king,
He rules, alone,
In his world of twisted fantasies,
Yearning, for the return,
Of the fire, that once burned,
So bright, within the young he,
Who still hoped, still dreamed,
And was yet to surrender to,
The demise, of his fractured cerebrum.

 

The Misanthrope,
He plots, alone,
The resurrection of,

He, who once he was,
And will be again.
His cold, callous nature,
And desire to rule,
Can be balanced,
Brought into check,

And perhaps,
Perchance,
Once more,
Within her embrace,
He shall dance.

 

Joshua Moulinie

Captain America:Civil War (2016), a Review

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Directors – Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Writers – Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

Starring – Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Sebastian Stan, Daniel Brühl

It is safe to say, with almost certainty, that no franchise has had a bigger impact on contemporary cinema, for better or worse, than Disney’s juggernaut, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Inspiring countless imitators, and being almost solely responsible for the rise of the shared cinematic universe, a trope now copied by several major franchises, whilst in the process making an unprecedented amount of money, this franchise has left a mark that will long be felt in the halls of cinematic history. With that said, this latest effort was supposed to be the biggest and best since Avengers Assemble, designed to transition into the next phase of the project. With critics the world over praising it for being the greatest film yet in the series, and having destroyed the box-office to the tune of a cool $1 billion, I thought it was high time I checked it out. I have to be honest, and say I was somewhat disappointed, as for me personally, it fell remarkably short of matching the hype.

The plot meanders somewhat, and is quite extensive to place into a neat synopsis, but the basics are as follows; In 1991, Bucky Barnes (Stan), known also as The Winter Soldier, a brainwashed Hydra agent, is seen committing an assassination. Years later, roughly a year after the events of Avengers:Age of Ultron, the world’s governments are fed up with the Avengers and their reckless ways. U.S secretary of state, Thaddeus Ross, informs them that a new charter has been drawn up, known as the Sakovia Accord. This would cause the Avengers to register officially with the government and be sanctioned. Captain America (Chris Evans) disagrees, because freedom and liberty, I guess. Whereas Iron Man, or Tony Stark (Downey Jr), believes, due mainly to his own guilt at having created Ultron and caused the Sakovia event, that they should sign. Naturally, this leads to a division in the ranks, and to the titular Civil War. Meanwhile, The Winter Solider blows up a U.N meeting, at the behest of Baron Zemo (Daniel Bruhl), leading to Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) declaring he will take his life, as other heroes are brought into the fray.

The story was far more convoluted than it ever needed to be. All we really needed was the straight tension between Iron Man and Cap, based on the accord. That would have led to a more contained narrative that didn’t factor in so many characters and variables. In fact, when one considers all the different players in this movie, it quickly becomes apparent that the ensemble was just too big, and not everybody gets the screen-time they deserved.

Off the top of my head; Spider-Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Black Panther, Captain America, Ant-Man, Zemo, Crossbones, Falcon, War-Machine, Vision, Scarlet Witch ALL appear in one movie, and there was no way in hell McFeely and Markus could ever hope to find some balance in there. In fact, one could argue that the only characters really necessary to the story are Cap, Iron Man, Zemo, Vision, Witch, Winter Soldier and Black Panther. Everybody else is there merely to drum up the ‘war’ idea.

A war idea, may I add, that is a bit of a false promise. This is less Civil War, and more a minor scuffle. Nobody dies, nobody is irreversibly changed and nothing feels THAT different at the end. Sure, a few major plot points that have hung over the franchise are revealed, but I never felt like they were questions I needed answered. In particular, the fate of Tony Stark’s parents, who, up until recently, had felt like irrelevant background characters. It’s also a mighty convenient plot point that – SPOILER ALERT – The Winter Soldier took their lives. It feels like it was added last minute to drum up more dissention between Cap and Iron Man, but was it ever really needed? Maybe it was, but I couldn’t honestly say I was shocked, moved, or even cared.

And that’s the biggest problem with this film, and the Marvel universe as a whole. When your screenplays, traditionally, had consisted primarily of ‘hilarious’ one-liners, and after Joss Whedon turned everyone during Avengers Assemble into sassy teenagers, akin to Buffy The Vampire Slayer, it’s extremely difficult to buy that Civil War is supposed to be serious and have serious stakes, as it’s so out of tone with the rest of the franchise. Simply put, you don’t believe anybody is ever going to die, so you cannot buy into the stakes. For all Batman V Superman’s supposed flaws, at least it’s tone was consistent with Man of Steel, and ergo felt like a logical continuation within the same universe. This however, does not. It also doesn’t help that during a supposedly high-stakes battle sequence, Spider-Man is flying around dropping quotes and zingers. I get that Spider-Man’s thing, and always has been, but here it just seems out of place.

It’s not necessarily the writer’s issue, as they have to continue with Disney’s outline, and ergo are hamstrung in terms of what exactly they can do. It means that you never expect anyone to come to serious harm, and they don’t. There are no stakes whatsoever.

Again, I don’t wish to make this a contest between Batman V Superman and Civil War, but, considering my peers in the critics sphere decided to chastise it, whilst praising Civil War to the rafters, I feel this point needs to be made. That point being, that Civil War had no control over pacing. Whereas Batman V Superman built slowly to the big fight, meaning that when it finally happened, you couldn’t wait to see them kick lumps out of eachother, Civil War fucks this royally by having a fight sequence seemingly every five minutes.

What should have been, and in all honesty is, a cool sequence at the airport, where all the major players arrive and kick lumps out of eachother, is tainted somewhat by the fact that we’ve already seen multiple combinations of these characters slap each other about for the whole film. There are so many damn fight sequences, by the time the final one comes about, I found I no longer cared.

The screenplay was also sadly inconsistent, at times surprisingly good, at times, horrifically woeful. One line in particular, that was meant to be poignant, had me in hysterics. ‘My family are dead Stark. And I blame you.’ I defy you to read that line in your head without slipping into your best Trey Parker voice. It sounds like a line that he would write to satirise action movies, and not one that’s in one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year. Although it must be stated that, outside of Hakeye, Ant-Man and Spider-Man, the sassy quips are cut down a lot, so the script is certainly an improvement on Avengers Assemble.

The biggest disappointment for me, personally, by some distance, were the visual elements. The colour scheme is bland, boring and almost looks as it came straight from the raw footage without much grading work. The cinematography is no better than that of a student filmmaker, and the CGI was horrifically noticeable in places. Spidey’s suit was not well cut around the neck, as there was a clear distinction between Tom Holland’s real head, and the clearly not real suit. The entire airport was green-screened, and it looked it. And somehow, someway, Iron Man’s suit looks worse now than it did in 2007. For such a massive film, with so much money behind it, it should have not have been that noticeable.

Now, I may have appeared somewhat harsh thus far, so I feel the need to make some disclaimers. First of all, this is not a terrible movie by any stretch. In fact, if you’re the kind of passive movie fan who doesn’t wish to think whilst being entertained, and merely wish to absorb and enjoy, this will probably be right up your street. There are plenty of fun moments, and the plot is meaty enough to enjoy, without being silly or contrived.

Downey JR’s performance, as per usual, is fantastic (even if he is just playing himself.), and the rest of the cast do very well for themselves, with the exception of Chris Evans as cap, who is clearly the most limited actor involved. It’s certainly not Michael Bay-esque nonsense, and is worth a viewing. It’s just that, after Batman V Superman was hailed as one of the worst blockbusters of the decade, and this was praised to the rafters, I expected a lot more, and I don’t think that wasn’t a reasonable request.

Civil War is, in my opinion at least, an average Blockbuster that is afraid to take any genuine creative risks, for fear of serious backlash. In their desperate desire to make as much motherfucking money as possible, Disney/Marvel aim at as many denominators as plausible, ergo playing it as inoffensive as they can. I mean, kids ain’t going to toys if the character actually dies, right? Marvel have become the vanilla ice-cream of the cinematic world. We all know and like vanilla, we know it’s the safe option and what to expect. But, vanilla never has, and probably never will, wow and amaze us. It’s decidedly meh, decidedly safe, and somewhat boring. Civil War? More like dis interesting punch-up.

 

Final Rating – 3.6

 

Joshua Moulinie

 

 

 

A Journey on The Starship Cynicism

Buckle up Kiddo,
I’m gonna take you for a ride,
A ride inside,
The instability,
Of the cynical mind.

Be not afraid,
Sweet child,
As we head into the dark,
Of a human heart lost,
To the nature of the shark.

Our first stop,
Is in the land of free thought,
These are the dark things,
That we fought,
We are the law,
Contempt, posing as a court.

Do not expect to be joined on this ride,
For the cynical tend to ride solo,
This is a one man shuttle,
We’re so lost, so alone,
Why does it seem that we lost few,
Have nowhere we call home?

We walk in the darkness,
And we fear the light,
Another feeling, anxiety,
Along for the ride.
He never strays far,
We sit alone and we pray,
That one day, he may depart.

Next stop,
Planet optimism.
We won’t be here long.
A fleeting glimpse, a feelingless touch,
Optimism is a mis-placed key in our swansong.

Does it make sense yet?
Has it clicked?
We’re ravenous beasts,
All vagina,
No dicks.
We don’t fit in,
With their happy schemes,
Every move we make is silent,
We are the ignored,
But we command them all in our dreams.

So we form our own militia,
The army of the lost,
An un-winnable fight,
That lasts into the light,
And leaves us left with nothing but,
That which we fear the most.

J.A.Moulinie

 

 

 

 

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016), a Review

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Director – Dan Trachtenberg

Writer – Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken, Damien Chazelle

Starring – John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher, JR.

I must start this review with a preface that may not entirely shock you; I didn’t care much, if at all, for the original Cloverfield. Despite the incredible marketing campaign, and me being a self-confessed fan of giant monster movies, something about it just didn’t click. Perhaps it was the nauseating found-footage format; in fact, it probably was. All I remember of it, truth be told, is a sad combination of headaches and disappointment. Ergo, I had little hopes for 10 Cloverfield Lane, and, as critics in 2016 have been woefully off the mark more often than not, the critical lauding did little to sell me on the project. Thankfully, I was way off the mark, as Abrams and Trachtenberg create a wonderful little claustrophobic thriller that wipes the floor with it’s predecessor in terms of artistic merit.

Following an argument with her fiancé Ben, Michelle (Elizabeth Winstead) leaves New Orleans and drives through rural Louisiana. Late at night, she turns on the radio and hears that there are blackouts in major cities. Distracted by a call from Ben, Michelle gets into an accident and is rendered unconscious. She wakes up in a concrete room chained to a wall and is approached by a man named Howard (John Goodman), who explains that an attack of unknown origin has taken place and that he brought her to his bunker after finding her on the side of the road. She meets another survivor/captive, Emmett (Gallagher, JR.), who seems to believe Howard, though Michell remains unconvinced, and the mystery begins to thicken.

The core strength of 10 Cloverfield Lane is the incredibly tightly-woven and enigmatic screenplay, carried by the intriguing dual mysteries that permeate the picture; One – Who is Howard really, and what are his intentions? Two – Was there really some form of attack?. As the film is framed through Michelle’s eyes, we the audience are no more privy to these truths than she is, and, as such, we go along for the ride, as in the dark as she is. Ergo, we’re instantly hooked on the mystery, as we know nothing about it. One could argue, of course, that if we’d seen Cloverfield we’d know there was indeed an attack.

However, the beautiful thing about this sequel is that it never directly references the original, and, as such, we have no idea if this film was set pre or post-attack, thus keeping the mystery intact. In fact, it’s arguably more tantalising, as we assume the original is what Howard is referencing, but his description of events, clearly inspired by internet conspiracy theorists, is so far from what actually happened that we’re left in doubt as to whether, within the confines of this movie, the original ever actually happened. This is, without hyperbole, a stroke of genius. It teases us with clues, but cleverly never reveals a single solid fact. It’s all twists and turns, and it’s incredibly tense.

The mystery of Howard, and who he is, and what he stands for, is cleverly woven, though his actions give a lot away in terms of clues, just enough to give us a fighting chance of figuring out a very enigmatic character. We know he’s aggressive, we know he’s prone to bits of rage, potentially psychotic, and harbouring mystery secrets. Yet, for a large duration of the film, we know nothing for sure. We’re led to guess, and theorise, and it leads to very much a thinking-person’s movie, as opposed to a blockbuster.

In fact, one could make a strong argument that 10 Cloverfield Lane is an arthouse picture that received mainstream credits and success. The small cast and singular location conjures up images of experimental movies as opposed to your traditional Hollywood fare, and leads me to ask one question. Why don’t we have more one-location films? 12 Angry Men, Locke and Rear Window are all examples of wonderful works of cinema that featured only one location and a small cast. Traditionally, the screenplays for these films are phenomenal, and the performances are magical. It’s also cheap as it can get, in terms of filmmaking, and if successful almost guarantees a profit. I’m digressing somewhat from the crux of this review, but it’s a point I think of surprisingly often, as it makes all the sense in the world for young aspiring filmmakers.

Howard may the most interesting of the three central characters, but that isn’t to say the other two lack in interest at all. In fact, far from it, as their juxtaposing ideals and beliefs create an intriguing and wonderful contrast. Michelle, clearly, does not trust Howard from the start, and refuses to drink his Kool-Aid, whereas Emmett clearly buys into everything he says and has a lot of respect for the man. This clash in beliefs and ideologies is what drives the film from an intriguing mystery to a poignant statement on the nature of cultism and faith. Of course, there’s an interesting twist later that gives reason for Emmett’s stern belief in Howard, but this is revealed late, and for a long duration of the picture, this contrast is brilliant.

This tension wouldn’t be possible, of course, with poor acting performances, and thankfully, all three put in their A-game, however, Goodman is clearly the star of the piece. After years of comedic roles, it’s almost fascinating to see a darker side to the man, and he performs it with aplomb and brilliance. He’s genuinely disconserting, and leaves one feeling uncomfortable and edgy. His switches from charming to rage are believable entirely, and everything from his vocals to facial expressions works together to create a wonderful cinematic performance that demands to be seen. It also leads to a wonderfully subtle piece of cinematic mirroring. While Cloverfield, the original, had a more traditionally obvious ‘monster’, 10 Cloverfield Lane has one too. This is, for different reasons, also very much a monster movie, but because this one is a human being with full control of his environment, he’s arguably more terrifying than that disappointing rampaging insect thing from the first.

Winstead and Gallagher are also great, if less mesmeric and captivating. Gallagher puts in a a fragile, vulnerable and wounded performance, and Emmett’s confusion is completely sold to us. Winstead puts in a much more commanding and headstrong performance, as her character is quickly shown to be witty and resourceful. She plays the part well, if not quite spectacularly.

Sadly, the film misses out on the fantastic tag due to two seemingly glaring issues. The first is that, because of the location, the cinematography is somewhat dull, without ever being bad. It’s just there, framing the action as it needs to, without doing anything particularly innovative or memorable. It isn’t bad, by any stretch, but lacks imagination and creativity, and as such falls a bit flat.

The second issue is the divisive and controversial ending which, in all honesty, feels like it was added on and ripped from another movie. This tense, claustrophobic thriller ends, bizarrely, on a horror-action beat, which I refuse to spoil for you. I refuse to spoil it because it’s so ‘out of nowhere’ that you really need to go in blind and see it for yourself. It’s not bad, certainly, just out of place and downright bizarre. One could also argue it ruins the mystery the movie had built up previously.

10 Cloverfield Lane is, put simply, and without doubt, a strong contender for the ‘biggest improvement on the original by a sequel in cinematic history’ award. Campbell et al craft a wonderfully mysterious and twisting narrative that never feels forced, generic or boring. Trachtenberg does a magical job of coaxing wonderful performances out of his cast, and the tension is so ludicrously viscous the knife wouldn’t do the job, and you’d need a goddamn chainsaw to cut it. That performance by Goodman is a career best, and potentially the greatest of the year thus far, and a franchise that looked buried after the original now has the potential to become something truly iconic should they choose to pursue it further. Simply put, the parts all came together and resulted in a wonderful experience.

 

Final Rating – 4.3

 

Joshua Moulinie