“The Neon Demon” Review

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The Neon Demon (2016)

 “Beauty isn’t everything. It’s the only thing, says Roberto Sarno inThe Neon Demon. Director of this movie, Nicolas Winding Refn, seems to have taken this statement close to heart, and crafted a film where visual beauty is, indeed, the only thing worth paying any attention to, seemingly forgetting that, in film-making, visual representation is never the only thing that counts. Refn (also director behind critically-acclaimed “Drive” (2011)) is now here also the writer, and his story is about Jesse (Elle Fanning), an underage aspiring model, who comes to LA to try her luck in show-business. After gaining initial success, Jesse realises that the climb to the top is thornier than she had previously imagined it to be, especially when a group of fellow models start to covet her natural attributes and instantaneous success. Despite its outstanding visual effects and a promising premise, “The Neon Demon” is preposterous and misguided, that kind of a film which one can easily stop watching half way through, never really caring about the ending.

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“The Handmaiden” Review

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The Handmaiden (2016)

The Handmaiden” is an award-winning erotic psychological drama directed by Park Chan-wook (“Oldboy” (2003), “Stoker” (2013)). Based on/inspired by the novel “Fingersmith” (2002) by Sarah Waters, the film centres on a young maid, Sook-Hee, who arrives to the estate of an affluent book-lover, Kouzuki, to be a servant to his niece Lady Hideko. However, nothing is as it seems, because Sook-Hee’s main employer is actually a conman, self-named Count Fujiwara, who made a deal with the young maid to con Lady Hideko out of her inheritance. Fiercely intelligent and provoking, “The Handmaiden” does three things brilliantly: it toys cleverly with its audience’s imagination, and challenges its formed beliefs and visual interpretations; touches a sensitive nerve with its poetic and erotic imagery; and provides a stunning cinematic experience.

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Hitchcock’s “Rebecca” Review

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 **SPOILER ALERT** 

Rebecca (1940)

“…I suppose sooner or later in the life of everyone comes a moment of trial. We all of us have our particular devil who rides us and torments us, and we must give battle in the end” (Daphne Du Maurier “Rebecca” (1938)). 

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, “Rebecca” is adapted from the best-selling novel by Dalphne Du Maurier, and tells of a mysterious widower, Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier), the owner of a grand estate Manderley, who stumbles across a shy and awkward young girl (Joan Fontaine) while on a trip in Monte Carlo. De Winter hurriedly marries our heroine, but upon the arrival to his estate, the new Mrs de Winter feels like a trespasser. She realises that every corner of the house is permeated by the spirit of Maxim’s beautiful, charming and intelligent previous wife, Rebecca, and senses that her husband still re-lives the happy moments that he had with his former wife. 

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“Elle” Review

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Elle (2016)

**SPOILER ALERT**

A Dutch director known for “Basic Instinct” (1992) and “Total Recall” (1990), Paul Verhoeven, has produced his first French-language film to date – “Elle”, based on a novel by Philippe Dijan (also known as the writer of “Betty Blue” (1986)). “Elle” has already competed for a Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival 2016, and deals with a very sensitive topic of a rape perpetuated on a successful businesswoman Michele Leblanc, whose complex relationship with her family and the deeply-seated psychological trauma experienced during childhood, lead her to have an unconventional response to the attack. This film is as disturbing as it is engrossing, and, overall, proves to be a very satisfying experience, thanks to an outstanding performance by Isabelle Huppert (“The Piano Teacher” (2001)), and due to a masterful (though also confusing) mix of a psychological thriller, a Hitchcockian detective story and French black humour.        

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“The Double” vs. “Enemy”

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The question of personal identity and its duplication have been fascinating people for centuries. From Edgar Allan Poe’s “William Wilson” to Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”, the theme has been pervasive in almost every form of art. When it comes to movies, such films as “Sommersby” (1993), “Face/Off” (1997), “The Prestige” (2006) or “Black Swan” (2010) may immediately come to mind. However, just recently, scriptwriters/directors have decided to approach the topic more directly, and we now see two films – Denis Villeneuve’s “Enemy” (2014) and Richard Ayoade’s “The Double” (2013) gracing cinema screens in the hope to awe. Although these two movies have their share of differences, e.g., “The Double” is far wittier and more satirical than “Enemy“, these two films share the same theme, and, therefore, it may be interesting to make a brief comparison between the two. Also, besides the “doppelganger” theme, what these two films also have in common is the relative novelty of the directors’ productions. “The Double” is Ayoade’s directional debut and for Villeneuve, ‘”Enemy” is only his second truly mainstream movie after “Prisoners” (2013), also starring Jake Gyllenhaal (“Donnie Darko” (2001), “Zodiac” (2007)).

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“I, Anna” Review

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I, Anna (2012)

‘I, Anna’ is a 2012 noir mystery thriller starring Gabriel Byrne and Charlotte Rampling. The film is a directional debut of Barnaby Southcombe (who is known for TV series and who is also Rampling’s son). In ‘I, Anna’ the plot centres around a lonely woman, Anna Welles (Rampling), who becomes the centre of attention for the detective, Bernie Reid (Byrne), investigating the murder of a man in a London apartment. As Bernie becomes infatuated with the mysterious woman and her strange behaviour, he realises that she may have more to do with the murder case than initially meets the eye.

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“Black Swan” Review

Black Swan (2010)   

**SPOILER ALERT**

Directed by Darren Aronofsky (‘Requiem for a Dream’ (2000)), ‘Black Swan’ is an ambitious psychological horror film promising to submerge the viewer into the world of classical ballet, game of sexual seduction and pure psychological delirium, but has it delivered? 

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