Nymphomaniac & Nymphomaniac – Il Film – 4/10.

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Horrible, grim faced woman lowers tone of a nice old gentleman’s house with her vulgar stories.

My first experience of director Lars Von Trier was Antichrist which I hated so much it took me four years to watch another one. Antichrist is just controversy for controversy’s sake and absolute unpleasant pretentious nonsense so I was pleasantly surprised when I gave his other work Dogville a shot and absolutely loved it. I followed this with Melancholia which I also loved so I had started to think Antichrist was an anomaly. Then I watched Nymphomaniac. Jesus. I don’t know what possessed someone as obviously intelligent as LvT to take four hours to present the message ‘If a man fucks loads of girls he is a stud but if a girl does it she is a slag’ – A view so obvious and prevalent that you see it everywhere from sixth form drama productions to fucking TOWIE. In fairness the first half is actually pretty good but the second half is truly terrible. The sex scenes seem gratuitous in one way but in another way you definitely couldn’t call anything in this four hour glumathon titillating so accusations of gratuity are probably unfair. All this would be ok if the acting or writing or ANYTHING made up for it but it doesn’t. Of course it must have been tough for Charlotte Gainsbourg to film all those sex scenes but it would have been tough for me if I filmed them and believe me that would have been shit too. Shia LaBeouf is all over the place. I literally have no idea what his accent was. Uma Thurman and Christian Slater save the first half and Jamie Bell is actually the best thing in the entire saga in the second half but nobody else stands out. The characters are so badly written nobody could possibly believe that anywhere in the world there is people like this. Tarantino also writes characters that are a caricature but they are bloody entertaining. I can’t imagine a single reason to bother sitting through this but I’m sure it is being hailed as a masterpiece the world over.

The Darjeeling Limited – 8/10.

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Three brothers annoy each other and carry fantastic luggage on a train journey through India.

Darjeeling Limited contains one of my favourite ever opening scenes. Bill Murray runs for a train, all of a sudden Adrien Brody appears along side him and they exchange a look. It is glorious. Joining Brody are Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman as the brothers and the three of them have a wonderful chemistry throughout. As with all of director Wes Anderson’s films the magic is in the little quirks that keep appearing throughout the Darjeeling Limited such as the way Wilson keeps ordering for his siblings and the repeated lines in the dialogue. All of Anderson’s films look amazing but he doesn’t have much to do here because India is such a gorgeous place anyway. Anderson doesn’t rush things here he just lets the story play itself out as we get to know the three main characters and their relationship to each other. This makes for a more enriching emotional experience and makes the film seem like a proper journey in a similar vein to Stand By Me. If you like Anderson’s other work you will already have seen this if you haven’t then you can’t go far wrong with Darjeeling Limited as an introduction.

Escape from New York – 7.5/10.

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Where to start with this synopsis… Ok so the president of the United States crashes a small airpod type thing into Manhattan which is now a huge penal colony. From there the heads of the prison send in the most 80′s man of all time Snake Plissken (honestly) to save the day.

Some of the things you can expect from EFNY: Kurt Russell with massive hair, wearing an eye patch and talking in hushed tones. Other characters with one name such as Brain, Duke and Cabbie dressing and acting like they wondered off the set of three totally different films. Some excellent graffiti in the background, my favourite just being the word ‘BRICKS’ daubed on the wall in massive letters. Some of the worst (best?) fight scenes ever. Isaac ‘Chef’ Hayes dressed as a pirate and driving a car that literally has two chandeliers stuck on the bonnet and a disco ball hanging from the roof. I have been watching a fair few 80′s films recently and each one has left me more baffled than the last. What a glorious time for cinema it truly was. There are literally hundreds of films that are more intelligent, technically superior and well… just plain better than Escape from New York but you wont find many that are quite as fucking fun.

I will leave you with this line from Snake Plissken himself:

Old man with earring: ‘Are you going to kill me now Snake?’

Snake (looking directly into camera): ‘I’m too tired… (pause for effect) Maybe later’

Martha Marcy May Marlene – 7.5/10.

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5633_2A troubled young woman escapes from a cult. Spends lots of time looking into the middle distance.

When this film began and within minutes main character Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) was almost immediately psychologically and sexually abused I sighed and braced myself for yet another unnecessarily gruelling film showing nasty and ‘gritty’ violence towards women dressed up as art. I was pleasantly surprised by the end to find MMMM a well acted character study about paranoia, bullying and how some people use psychological manipulation to control the weak and unhappy. Elizabeth Olsen is a revelation here. Totally believable in what must have been a pretty tough role. She recently starred in Godzilla and is going to be a feature of the Marvel universe in the future too so keep an eye out. Hugh Dancy is just as creepy as he is in Hannibal although I’m not so sure he is meant to be and he kind of sticks out here. Eastbound and Downs John Hawkes is a world away from Kenny Powers redneck older brother. He is intimidating and dominant throughout as cult leader Patrick. This film would make a nice companion piece to fellow cult film Sound Of My Voice but most of all it is worth watching for Olsen’s haunting performance.

Poltergeist – 8/10.

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Lots of really weird things occupy and enter a house. Elsewhere there are ghosts as well.

Zelda Runbinstein. A lot of strange things occur during the course of Poltergeist. The uneasy mix of 80s cheese (elderly man falls off bike. Hilarity enuses) and genuine horror (man peels off his own face) for one thing. Seemingly wildly inappropriate jokes about a teenage girl being a slut for another. The suggestion that any parents would buy an absolutely terrifying clown doll and then place it on a chair facing their young sons bed is yet another. All of this pales in significance though when compared to the strangeness of the character Tangina(!) played by Zelda Rubinstein. About two thirds of the way through she shows up. Four feet three inches. A voice so high pitched that it suggests she is in fact just a really big mouse that can speak. It’s like the writers couldn’t think of a way to finish it so they just took a character from a totally different story and threw her into this. She is glorious. ‘There is no such thing as death’ is her opening gambit I believe. Tragic heroine Heather O’ Rourke is actually great as focal character Carol Anne which makes her death at 12 years old all the more heartbreaking. Craig T. Nelson manages to keep what is a pretty wild story on the page grounded in realism with his performance. Poltergeist pretty much invented a whole genre on it’s own ( Paranormal Activity, Insidious, Sinister etc all owe it a massive debt) and if it feels clichéd now it is only because Poltergeist pretty much invented a lot of the stuff you have come to expect in a ghost story.

Dead Mans Shoes – 10/10.

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The revenge movie to end all revenge movies (sorry Old Boy).

I first came across DMS about 8 years ago when I randomly stumbled across it on film4. About 20 viewings later and it still packs the same emotional wallop as it did first time round. While DMS is pretty bleak and intensely powerful throughout there are actually lighter moments trying to burst through the gloom. These are mostly in the first half though, in the second half it really does take a dark turn and it never lets up. Paddy Considine’s performance as Richard is one of my all time favourite portrayals. Funny, charismatic, menacing, but at the same time so haunted and pained and even vulnerable at times. Toby Kebbel is also very convincing as Richards disabled little brother in what is always a difficult role to pull off (see Ricky Gervais in Derek for someone getting it hopelessly wrong). Meadows later work This is England took all the plaudits but Dead Mans Shoes is by far the more important and superior work.

Equilibrium – 8/10.

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Patrick Bateman becomes Winston Smith in Dystopia.

Equilibrium has been unfairly dismissed as ‘Matrix with guns’ pretty much since its release which is very unfair. Whilst there are undeniable similarities (primarily the colours, never has a film utilized so many different shades of grey), Equilibrium is in many ways more intelligent than The Matrix. Whilst there is absolutely no subtlety here (the drug people take to stop them feeling is called ‘Prozium’, not too difficult to work out this a dig at Prozac and and Valium) the message is no less important. Obviously the ghost of George Orwell looms large over everything, not just the dystopia of 1984 but also the privileged hypocrisy of Animal Farm. Christian Bale was on a golden run around the time this film was made (American Psycho, Equilibrium, The Machinist, Batman Begins, The Prestige etc) and he is once again brilliant here. He can convey more with his eyes than Kit Harrington has throughout the entire run of Game of Thrones. Speaking of GOT, Sean Bean **SPOILERS** meets his demise very early on even for his standards and the film does suffer slightly for this. Emily Watson is also underused as she smoulders when on screen and Taye Diggs is so crap as Bale’s sidekick that he threatens to derail the whole movie. I’m surprised this never became a cult classic as I loved it on release. It would make a brilliant tv series…