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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Charlotte Gainsbourg

Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer (2017)

Can’t trust anybody. Not even randomly kind Jewish men.

Norman (Richard Gere), a New York fixer, knows the right people and can get things done. He also can tend to be a bit overzealous and, as a result, begin to scare more people away, than actually bring them in and closer. Often too, his tactics can be a little odd and rub certain people the wrong way. But then again, those are the kinds of people Norman doesn’t want to really work with, which is why when an Israeli dignitary named Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi) comes to the city, Norman decides to impress the man by buying him some very expensive shoes and seeing if they can build on some sort of friendship. It works and he establishes a strong connection to the man, and it helps him when Eshel becomes Israel prime minister a few years later and, get this, actually remembers Norman and wants him to help out in his office. Norman accepts, but also wishes that he was a lot closer to Eshel and the inner-workings. Eventually, this causes issues for both men and will ultimately prove to be Norman’s unraveling, where his real life, all the secrets and lies that he’s kept throughout the years, finally come to lie.

“Trust me, it’s cold out.”

Norman feels like it’s based on a true story, but it really isn’t. In a way, writer/director Joseph Cedar seems to be basing this story off the numerous individuals who work in the strategy-world portion of politics and he doesn’t seem to be frowning upon them, nor even glamorizing them – in fact, he’s more or less just giving them the fair-shake they probably deserve. Political fixers, so often, are seen as heartless, tactful, and evil-doers who find a way to win and keep at it, no matter what. Why on Earth we look down upon these people as less than human, when in reality, they’re just really good at their jobs. And in Norman, the idea we get about political-fixers, as well as the title-character, is that being good at your job is one thing, but being a good and smart human being is another.

Although, that’s what I think.

See, the small issue with Norman is that the movie never really knows just what proves to be his actual fall-from-grace, because honestly, we never really get to see the rise, either. Of course, the word “Moderate” in the title probably says it all, but honestly, when your movie is built around the fact that your lead character doesn’t really accomplish a whole lot, yet, still falls down dramatically off the social-ladder, it’s hard to really feel any pain or emotion. We may care for this character, or even what he’s doing, but if we really don’t get the sense of what’s being accomplished and lost, then really, what’s the point?

Well, Israel’s got enough problems on its plate, honestly.

If anything, Norman proves to be another solid showcase for Richard Gere who, so late in his life, almost doesn’t care how big the movies he’s doing are. By now, he’s so happy to be able to work with these three-dimensional, interesting characters, that he’ll take the budget on, regardless. And as the title-character, Gere’s quite good here; he has every opportunity to play it silly and cartoonish, but thankfully, he strays away from that. In fact, what we see with Gere’s portrayal is a small, rather smart man who also just wants to be recognized, praised, and above all else, loved.

In a way, if you look closer and closer into Norman, the movie does show itself as an intimate character-study of this one relatively troubled man who, despite seeming to have it all, still wants a little more. Cedar is a smart director to know when to get in the way of his ensemble, but because he doesn’t and they’re all good, we see more sides to these characters than ever expected, especially Gere’s Norman. He begins to show his true shadows and signs that, once broken down, unveil a very unexcited and disappointing man. The movie doesn’t really hit as hard, or as heavy as it should, but considering there’s Gere here, it’s safe to say that he’s still an interesting enough character to watch wheel-and-deal for over two-hours.

Anybody else, anywhere else, probably would have been a pain.

Consensus: Though it never really delivers going any deeper than it should have, Norman still works as a smart, interesting character-study, anchored by an even better Richard Gere performance.

7 / 10

Someone give him a hug already!

Photos Courtesy of: Kenwood Theatre

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I’m Not There (2007)

Wow. Bob Dylan did more than just go electric.

I’m Not There is, basically, a movie about the many exciting, weird and crazy lives that Bob Dylan has lived throughout his lifetime. However, rather than following the traditional, biopic-structure of keeping it with one actor, all the time, the movie switches things up in having these characters take on different life-forms, with different actors, even though they’re all, you know, playing Bob Dylan. There’s a boy who roams the streets, with his guitar and playing anywhere they’ll allow him to, while all going under the name of Woody Guthrie (Marcus Carl Franklin) even though, he clearly isn’t who he says he is. There’s folk-singer Jack Rollins (Christian Bale) who was, at one point, the hip, new thing in music but has a spiritual awakening one day and realizes that he wants to do more with his life than just rock out. There’s Robbie Clark (Heath Ledger), another hip, young star in the world of entertainment who has a loving marriage to a French gal (Charlotte Gainsbourg), that soon starts to go sour once he begins to flirt with other ladies. There’s Jude Quinn (Cate Blanchett), yet again, another hip, young musician who decides to get rid of his old ways and “go electric”, which leads all of her friends, family and fans to go crazy and reconsider their love for her. There’s Billy McCarty (Richard Gere), someone who may or may not have a rocky past to hide.

Not Dylan.

Not Dylan.

And through it all, there’s Arthur Rimbaud (Ben Whishaw) – a dude who’s here to just say weird, cryptic things

It’s noble what Haynes is trying to do here with the story of Bob Dylan; rather than keeping things on a simple, narrow-path that we’ve all seen a hundred times in plenty of other rock biopics, he decides to have it be a whole bunch of different story-lines, at one time, with different actors, but seemingly still playing the same character. It may sound confusing on paper, but surprisingly, it’s relatively easy-to-follow when watching the movie. Right away, the movie makes it a point to remind you that you’re watching actors all play Bob Dylan, and while they may not necessarily actually be named “Bob Dylan”, they’re still different times in the life of Bob Dylan.

Once again, it’s easy to get once you see it all play out, regardless of how weird I may be making it sound.

That doesn’t make it anymore interesting, but hey, at least it’s a noble effort on Haynes’ part for trying to shake things up a bit with a genre that seems too comfortable.

One of the main issues that surrounds I’m Not There, is that nobody’s story is ever really all that interesting to watch or see play-out. While, once again, we know they’re all different versions of snippets of Dylan’s life, none of whom ever really stand-out as taking over the movie and making us want to see them the most. Usually, that’s the kind of issues these large ensemble pieces have – while some stories may be okay, there tends to be the one that takes over everything else and leave you excited for whenever that comes around again. Here though, nobody ever makes you feel that.

Instead, you’re watching a bunch of surprisingly boring characters, mope around, deal with issues that we don’t care about and quite frankly, have all seen before, biopic or no biopic. There are certain bits of style that Haynes tries to work with here to cover up some of the rough patches, but mostly, it seems like what he has to work with here doesn’t really go anywhere all that surprising, or at all interesting. Granted, most of us already know about the life of Bob Dylan, and whether you don’t or not, it doesn’t matter, because the movie doesn’t seem all that interested in telling you much about him, either.

All it really cares about is the music he made, which granted, is fine.

Not Guthrie.

Not Guthrie.

Bob Dylan is one of the greatest musicians of all-time. His music will forever continue to stand the test of time and while some of those out there may have issue with his voice, and the fact that, well he can’t actually sing anything at all, it almost doesn’t matter. The fact is, the man has created some great music and it’s on full-blast in I’m Not There. Which honestly, helps the movie out a whole lot more; it’s surprising just how well any song Bob Dylan goes with a montage, regardless of what may be in the montage or not.

So if Haynes was trying to make this as some sort of tribute to Bob Dylan, the musician, then he did a solid job. At the same time though, he doesn’t really go anywhere else with it, other than that. This isn’t to say that nobody in the cast seems to be trying, either, because they all do. But, for the most part, they all seem like they’re really trying to dig harder and deeper into these characters and give us more than just what’s being presented on the surface.

One in particular, of course, is Cate Blanchett’s nearly unrecognizable performance as Jude Quinn. While it’s easy to assume that it’s just Blanchett doing an impersonation of the young and brash Dylan (what with the iconic wig, sunglasses, jacket, and all), she actually goes a bit further and show that there truly was a tortured soul at the middle of it all. Though it was easy to just assume that he had it all coming to him, there’s still a nice bit of sympathy that’s easy to feel for this character. It’s less of a gimmick role, and much more of, yet again, another chance for Blanchett to run circles around everyone else in the movie.

Which honestly, I’ll watch any day of the week.

In fact, give me that whole subplot/movie with just Blanchett. I’m fine.

Consensus: Todd Haynes deserves credit for trying something different with I’m Not There, but overall, seems to not have the right idea of what to say about the life of Bob Dylan, or at least, present it in a manner that’s intriguing to those who may not already know enough about him to begin with. But hey, good thing they paid for them royalties!

5 / 10

But yeah, definitely Dylan.

But yeah, definitely Dylan.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Comingsoon.net

Nymphomaniac: Volume II (2014)

Sex isn’t the root to all evil. It just matters who you’re having it with.

When we last left-off with Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her life’s story, she was younger, happily-in-love with Jerome (Shia Labeouf), but had a problem: She couldn’t be fully sexually-satisfied. Most of that problem had to do with the fact that she was pregnant, but that’s also because she longed for something more. After all, she is a self-described Nymphomaniac, and Nymphomaniac’s need all the pleasure and sex they can get. Even if that does mean getting late-night spanks from a random stranger (Jamie Bell); going to see a sex-therapist (Katie Ashfield) to “get help”; and start working as a debt-collector for a brutal man known as L (Willem Dafoe). Eventually though, all of this screwing around, comes back to bite her in the rear-end, which also leads us to the present-day in which she is telling Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) everything that he needs to know about her. He’s still using every chance he can to bring up random facts about fishing, religion, family and art, but he may even have a little something to share with Joe as well. Maybe something that will make her seem in a different light?

Volume I of Lars von Trier’s two-parter surprised the hell out of me. Not because it wasn’t as disgusting or vile as I originally thought of it as being upon first hearing the term, “Four-hour sex-epic from the guy who made Antichrist“, but because it did a lot of stuff that we don’t see von Trier often do in his movies. For one, it was pretty funny. Many of times, I caught myself laughing at the pure-randomness of this material, like Christian Slater using a British-accent, or Joe ejaculating while watching her father lie-naked and die right in front of her eyes; however, I feel like that’s what von Trier wanted me to do. He was intentionally messing around with me, the viewer, and for that, I appreciated him, as well as the movie, a whole lot more.

Nothing like a good old Oreo sandwich.

Nothing like a good old Oreo sandwich.

Also, von Trier never seemed to be judging Joe for any of the dirty, immoral things she was doing with her body. She was having all sorts of sex with anybody she could find, yet, she was using it to her advantage. Rather than painting her as a total and complete slut, who doesn’t deserve the time of day, let alone, our warm, cozy bed, we get to see a woman, being a woman, who also happens to have plenty of needs. We never hate her, nor do we like her – we just see her for what she is. Von Trier was smart in using that method of story-telling and character-development to his advantage, which is why that first part had me expecting all sorts of greatness for this.

Sadly, no such thing happens.

The reason why I mentioned the whole hilarious, and non-judgmental-aspect of the first film, is because all of those elements that made the first one such a fine-watch, are pretty much gone here. Acts of hilarious randomness are replaced with dark, twisted confusion; whereas the idea of not judging our character, is replaced with a view on this character that is the least bit flattering. Now, of course it’s von Trier’s movie and he can wish to do whatever the hell it is he wants, with whomever he wants, but I feel like the transition from something so fun, light and exciting like the first-part, to something so dark, angry, mean and nasty like this part, would have been a lot more cohesive, had this film been shown in its original, straight, four-hour run-time. Had that been the format chosen, there wouldn’t have been such a tonal-difference between either parts, and how von Trier decides to switch gears up.

That doesn’t make this movie bad at all, it’s just disappointing is all. Where in Volume I, I thought I saw a quick, humorous-side to von Trier that I had never, ever known was there before; here, we get something that’s going back to the Lars von Trier we all know, and sometimes loathe: Evil, cruel and mean. He still pays close-attention to his characters, the situations they are thrown into, and how they react to them, but it’s not nearly as entertaining or interesting as the first movie. It just seems like von Trier ran-out of some ideas here and there, so instead of keeping with the frothy-pace of the first movie, he just decided to throw more and more crazy acts at us, in a way to both shock us and have us trying to make sense of what we’re seeing.

Problem is, that barely ever happens. It’s just Lars von Trier, being Lars von Trier. And I guess I just wanted more growth. May be a problem only I had, but it’s still a problem that continued to bug me, again and again.

"Yes, the glove DOES matter."

“Yes, the glove DOES matter.”

All that said, I can’t take away from what’s really working here, which is the ensemble von Trier packs a bit more from the first. Stacy Martin may have stolen the show in the first-installment, but this time, we finally get to see a lot more of Charlotte Gainsbourg’s portrayal of Joe, and needless to say, it’s another compelling performance from an actress that always seems to put in great work. Especially when she’s working with von Trier. Gainsbourg has a lot of crazy stuff to do here, such as getting whipped, brutally beaten, ripping her clothes off and having to kiss other woman. And while that may not sound like much of a range at all when all it is you’re doing is going through motions, Gainsbourg is still believable during every part. The only thing really holding her character back is that we begin to care less and less for her character, her journey and where it is she’s going with her life, because of the way von Trier’s light portrays here as. Shame too, because Gainsbourg is a solid actress who is clearly not afraid of stepping out of her comfort-zone; even if that does entail showing her bum.

Like Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgård returns as the heartfelt, sensitive man who is always eager to see and hear where Joe’s story goes next, sometimes a little TOO eager. We get more shading to his character than ever before here, but, like with the character of Joe in this movie, von Trier’s starts to paint a portrait of this man isn’t as sympathetic as it was in the first place. That’s about as much as I’ll say about that, but it surprised me. Then, I got to thinking about it, and then it didn’t. Because, hell, this is a Lars von Trier movie, what do you expect to happen!??! Roses, happiness, peace and love to be spotted in every frame?!?!

Consensus: The drastic change in tone and character-development for Nymphomaniac: Volume II, may be surprising when compared to the first-part, however, it’s a surprise that we’ve seen von Trier use way too many times before and by now, it seems like the man may have to find new, and improved ways to tell his stories. More like Volume I was.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

To move forward in one's life, they must burn every car. I know that's not really a saying, but in this case, it can be.

To move forward in one’s life, they must burn every car. I know that’s not really a saying, but in this case, it can be.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Nymphomaniac: Volume I (2014)

Let us talk about sex, shall we?

During one fateful night, an old man by the name of Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) stumbles upon a brutal, beaten and battered-up woman by the name of Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Though he does not know much about her, other than the fact that she does not want to have the police or ambulance called in at all, he decides to take her back to his place where he treats her to tea, his warm, cozy bed and even a small pastry as well. During her stay, Joe decides to tell Seligman her life’s story from when she was a youngin’ getting in all sorts of racy, sexual escapades, to the present-day, where it’s clear that she’s seen plenty of a lot and isn’t afraid to talk about it all. In between these stories, the two get into conversations about nature, fishing, nymphs and, randomly enough, cake forks.

Oh yeah, and people do bone, but that’s not the point, you dirt balls!

By now, I’m pretty sure that most of you ladies and gents have heard a thing or two about Lars von Trier’s, self-proclaimed, “Sex Epic”, which, as dirty as I may sound, is something I was looking forward to. No, not because I want to see dongs go in and out of all such places for the sake that I don’t have to worry about SPAM attacking my computer’s hard-drive, but because in the way that I know von Trier’s movies, I know that when he puts his mind to something, it works perfectly.

Whatever you two on my right do, just DO NOT, look to your right. I repeat: DO NOT LOOK TO YOUR RIGHT.

Whatever you two on my right do, just DO NOT, look to your right. I repeat: DO NOT LOOK TO YOUR RIGHT.

Okay, so maybe Antichrist was a bit too wacky, maybe even for his own disciples, but that’s another discussion, for another day. The fact of the matter is that when Lars von Trier decides to make a movie, no matter what it’s about (mostly stuff that isn’t in good-taste), you’re going to want to see it, just to understand what all of the fuss about it is for. And when you just add sex to the equation, hell, even in some cases, “real sex“, then you know all hell is going to break loose!!

But here’s what’s so shocking about von Trier’s latest: Despite it featuring a whole bunch of hot, attractive people participating in sexual-acts, it’s never actually hot, or even sexy. Instead, von Trier pulls the rug right from underneath us and just shows us these acts of sexual-promiscuity as if they were happening in real life. Sure, depending on what type of person you are, this may seem like the hottest thing since Janet Jackson’s nip-slip, but for others, it’s not really all that titillating to begin with. Most of that has to do with the fact that von Trier simply doesn’t care too much about the acts, and more or less actually cares about the story itself, and building characters; mainly in our female-protagonist, Joe.

Now, the one problem with this movie is that you can totally tell it’s a first-parter in a two-part series. First of all, that idea upsets me as is – I feel as if the producers and everybody else behind this should have just bit the bullet and made this a three-hour epic of sorts, because when this part of the series ends, it just ends. It doesn’t really stand on its own, and even during the end-credits, we’re shown a “teaser” of what’s next to come in Nymphomaniac: Volume II. I don’t know whose idea it was to think that we needed to cut-down something like this, nor take away Lars von Trier’s edits, but whatever. I guess it’s the reality I have to stick with, regardless of if I like it or not.

So screw me, right?

Anyway, where I was trying to go with that is in our lead character of Joe, we get to see a lot of Charlotte Gainsbourg just looking depressed, angry and very downtrodden. Which is all good since the gal owns it perfectly, but she isn’t nearly as much the star of the show as Stacy Martin is, playing Joe in her younger, wilder days. Martin, despite being a model, actually has a great screen-presence that commands your attention. But not just with her always naked-body or constant O-faces, but with the way she’s able to hold the screen by just being silent. You never know what it is that she’s thinking and you’re always left to wonder what she has to say next, if anything at all. In fact, I got the same impression from Gainsbourg’s performance as the older-Joe, showing us that these two gals are actually the same person, and didn’t really change all that much; except for the fact that their skin got flabbier and more wrinkly. But such is the case with aging, right?!?!?!

But yeah, Martin is great and although I know we’re more often likely to see Gainsbourg a lot more in Volume II, I still hope that we don’t fully kick Martin to the curb, because she’s actually very good and the type of female-actress I could see popping-up in more of von Trier’s stuff, forcing her to do all sorts of crazy shit that I won’t even dare to mention.

Dude’s a crazy bastard, in case you didn’t know.

"We're still talking about fishing, right?"

“We’re still discussing the art of fishing, right?”

The rest of the cast that von Trier is able to assemble is, as usual, quite impressive, given the fact that it’s a known-fact by now the type of stunts he pulls in order to get emotionally-draining performances from his actors and actresses. But yet, time and time again, talented, well-known people still sign-up to be in his movies, so who am I to judge, you know? I guess whenever we see a Lars von Trier movie, we should come to expect that Stellan Skarsgård will show up in some form, which I’m fine with since the guy’s a great actor and shows that he’s more than capable of handling whatever weird material von Trier throws his way. Here, as the friendly guy that looks over Joe and takes care of her, in a not-at-all-creepy way, Skarsgård is given a task in which he has to constantly relate Joe’s nutty escapades to other aspects of life, like literature, food, and especially fishing. However, his character never seems like he could be replaced or gotten rid of entirely; he’s there to serve as a voice-of-reason to Joe’s story as she’s telling it and for that, he brings some much-needed perspective. I look forward to seeing where this talk leads them and best of all, to see if they end-up shacking the boots. Crossing my fingers and holding out hope over here.

The newcomers to von Trier’s world of depravity are inspired, if even stranger than I expected. Having Christian Slater, Shia Labeouf and Uma Thurman in your movie is usually very interesting, which here, it still is, it’s just odd since they all have to carry-out British accents that sort of go in and out. However, it’s almost as if von Trier wanted this to happen, just so that he could screw with our minds even more. That, or the fact that nobody who actually was from Britain wanted to work with him in the first place, so why not get three has-beens and an actor that almost everyone in this world hates a bit more than Justin Bieber? See, I know how von Trier thinks, baby! Probably not a good thing to say, though.

Nonetheless, they’re all fine with what they do: Slater poops and pees himself, while having nightmares, but still has enough time to chat with his daughter (Joe) about leaves and each one of their meanings, or something like that; Labeouf, despite seeming as if he is trying a bit hard, is actually pretty hilarious as Jerome, the guy that Joe loses her V-card to, only to then stumble upon him later in life where he’s a bit of a deuche that tries hard to get laid, but can’t help but get the stiff-arm (much like what probably happens to Shia Labeouf in real life); and Thurman, with her one scene, steals the whole movie as the shamed wife who comes to Joe’s place, just to mess with her, the guy she is screwing (Thurman’s character’s husband), and the other guy Joe is screwing, all while her kids look on in absolute fear and silence. It’s nice to see von Trier give some of these actor’s new-lives as actors willing to hang with him and his demanding directorial-process. Though I know that there’s plenty of more faces and talents to come in the next installment, so I guess for now, I’ll just have to wait.

Damn you, whomever it was behind that sham of breaking this up into two movies! Damn you!

Consensus: Though there’s plenty left to be desired for what’s next to come in Volume II, Nymphomaniac: Volume I sill gives us all the dark, awkward aspects of the human-condition, with plenty of sex sprinkled throughout, and never never having it seem distracting or gratuitous.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Yeah, I think it's gone.

Yeah, I think it’s gone.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

21 Grams (2003)

I don’t know what these people are selling, but I sure as hell don’t want 21 grams of it. Teeehee

’21 Grams’ interweaves several plot lines, around the consequences of a tragic automobile accident. Sean Penn plays a critically ill academic mathematician, Naomi Watts plays a grief-stricken mother, and Benicio del Toro plays a born-again Christian ex-convict whose faith is sorely tested in the aftermath of the accident.

Director Alejandro González Iñárritu is a director I’m sort of mixed with even though I have already seen three of his four films already, including this one. Still, seems like a good enough director but at the same time, very much into making everything look absolutely filthy.

When it comes to the technical sides of things, Iñárritu knows what to do. The film looks very dirty, grainy, and makes it almost seem as if everybody in the film needs a bath but it works and gives this film a sort of ugly feeling where nothing good will come and happen to these characters. The film also has some very razor-sharp editing that cuts away at some very good moments but mind you, this is not a very fast-paced film by any means, it is a long slow-burner that keeps you watching even when you think your out.

When it comes to the emotional side of things though, Iñárritu also seems like he knows what he’s doing. The film is very dark, sad, and very depressing but there is still a lot we can feel for these characters because each of them all had or still have something terrible eating at them from the inside. Iñárritu keeps all three of these characters’ motives tucked inside of them and it’s actually up to us what we think they will do next and whether or not they are actually good people. At times, it can be hard to feel anything for these types of characters but by the end, you really start to feel their pain and anguish, which is something that almost draws you closer to them.

The problem with all of this is, everything here is told in a non-linear way where it constantly jumps back-and-forth between past, present, and the future. This of course, has its negatives as well as its positives. The positives about this is that this way of approaching the story sort of gives it that feel of a jigsaw puzzle where one second we see two people happy, then the next second we see one of them getting shot, and it all feels confusing at first but after awhile you start to get used to it and connect all of the pieces anyway. I like these types of films that use this different kind of approach and it was pretty neat to see it used here but then again, it did have its negatives that were a little too big.

First of all, I think the whole idea of having this film’s narrative jump around from one scene to another was just because Iñárritu he wanted to spice up the premise that could have easily been a straightforward melodrama. If it was a film that just told its stories in the order that it happened, it would have still been easily as good as the final product here and I think that Iñárritu just did this because he knew that he needed to do something new and cool with this material to make it stand-out. Secondly, this point basically goes along with my first point in saying that it’s pretty pointless after all but then again, it did keep me a little bit more interested than I expected so I can’t talk total ish. However, my last problem was probably the biggest of all and took me away from the film as a whole.

I already stated that I could actually feel something for these characters because of all this bad stuff they had happen to them, but what really took me away from really getting inside of them and understanding how they felt was this narrative structure. The problem with this structure and this story was that the flick requires us to feel something for these characters by seeing all of these things that occur over a different time-and-place every 5 seconds, which doesn’t really allow them to build any real character arc because of the fact that one second they could be happy as hell, then the next second they could be crying like a little beotch, and then the next second they could be getting it in with their significant other. By the end of the first hour, the flick starts to get more linear but it can’t really do much for the fact that this flick jumped around a little bit too much and did damage not only to its characters, but also the audience watching it as well.

What took my mind away from this though was the amazing performances by everybody involved. Sean Penn plays Paul Rivers, playing the quiet and sophisticated type that we don’t usually see him play, but he does a great job here and is amazing at showing vulnerability with any of his characters no matter who they may be. Benicio Del Toro is amazing as Jack Jordan, the one dude who has an inner fight with God. With any other actor, this conviction from this sort of character would have been too hoky and too annoying but Del Toro makes it seem believable and shows what it’s like for the other person who causes the pain to someone else. Del Toro lets it all out with this performance and even when he seems like he’s going to do something terribly wrong and evil, you start to think otherwise once you realize that his character is actually a good guy after all.

Probably the one performance that shines throughout this whole flick is Naomi Watts as Cristina Peck. This performance is nothing short of amazing because Watts is able to show us a character that is practically falling apart right in front of our eyes, and it seems real and believable. Watts is asked to do a lot with her character here such as go through all of these different emotions over the course of 2 hours and it shows her exceptional range and vulnerability as an actress. Watts really tears out her soul for this whole flick but you can’t help but to feel something for her considering her whole life is practically turned to shit and it’s just great to see an actress in top-form like never before.

Consensus: 21 Grams features powerful performances, a dirty and grainy look, and a story that conveys plenty of emotions but the structure is also a problem for this flick because it not only takes away from the character arch of these people but also just feels pointless and put in here for no other reason other than to spice things up.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Antichrist (2009)

Yes, it is as effed up as you have probably heard.

A grieving couple (Dafoe & Gainsbourg) retreat to ‘Eden’, their isolated cabin in the woods, where they hope to repair their broken hearts and troubled marriage. But nature takes its course and things go from bad to worse.

I’m not really that in tack with a lot of Lars von Trier films but I have to say that I’ve only heard of how messed up this dude’s films can be. Sadly, messed up doesn’t really make your film good.

Trier isn’t the kind of guy that wants to make you sit back, sip a cold one, and enjoy yourself, no, he’s more about pushing the envelope, pushing all sorts of crazy shit in your face, and making sure you never forget what you see. Even though I knew what kind of shock value to expect, I still was completely taken aback by all of the crazy shit I saw and it will definitely stick in my mind.

When it comes to horror films, not many go to the extremes that this one has, and that isn’t such a bad thing but then again, not many horror films seem very original or distinct if they don’t try to shock you at all. The crap that happens here is definitely disgusting, and very in-your-face, which makes it not for everyone but I can say that when it comes to horror, that’s what you want. You want a horror film that will last with you for days by how damn creepy and disturbing it was, not how enjoyable it was. This is definitely one of the rare horror films that comes out and has the balls to go that extra mile to keep people hurling as if they just got off the Kingda Ka.

However, all of the crazy shit I’m talking about doesn’t really happen until the last hour of the film, whereas before that, I couldn’t tell you what even happened by how lame it was. The film starts off incredibly slow with nothing really happening that stayed in my mind, other than these two bangin’ a lot and that’s what really kept me checking the time to see how long till I had to finally see some crazy ish happening. Thankfully the last hour goes incredibly mad, but this first hour bored the hell out of me.

When it comes to being an effective horror film: it works. But when it comes to being a commentary on grief and loss: I couldn’t really see the connection. During the last hour, when everything goes bat-shit, whatever Trier was trying to get to me about loss and grief of a little child, was completely forgotten about and more of just there to provide some back-story for the jaw-dropping sequences. Most films can get there point to me right away, but I think Trier lost his way just a bit or was trying really hard to shock and enlighten, which it seems like is something he can’t have at the same time. Sorry my little Hitler-supporter.

The creepy visuals are here, the writing is pretty good, but it’s really the acting that brought this film to it’s main strength. Willem Dafoe is practically playing Willem Dafoe but is still pretty good as the daddy, which was a given but the real spot-light here goes to Charlotte Gainsbourg as the wife. I don’t know how and why anything would ever let her accept this role after reading a script like this but she really was a great pick considering she puts all of her might into this and provides a lot of craziness and insanity for a character you just don’t know what she is going to do next. The Academy would never look at a film like this, but I could easily say she at least deserved a nomination of some sorts for giving all of her might into this one loopy character.

Consensus: There is certainly a lot here that will mess with your head, haunt you, and provide you plenty of jaw-dropping moments that will make you wanna puke, but overall, Antichrist works as a horror film that pushes the limits but can never really get what it’s trying to say across all of the craziness and the disturbing things that happen.

5.5/10=Rental!!

Melancholia (2011)

Just put a freakin’ smile on for Christ’s sakes.

Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Michael (Alexander Skarsgård) are celebrating their marriage at a sumptuous party in the home of her sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and brother-in-law (Kiefer Sutherland). Meanwhile, the planet, Melancholia, is heading towards Earth.

Lars von Trier is a very hard director to watch, especially if you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into with him. Trier always seem very hell-bent on making just about every single hope and dream that anybody has ever had and basically throwing them away in our faces. The hope and dream in this film is the planet Earth.

This film is a very hard pill to swallow because it starts off so slow and depressing that it’s almost way too hard to even stick with it and just “enjoy” it. Trier isn’t all about having us be enjoyed, but he’s more about just letting us see the world from a certain persons point-of-view and letting us understand these people for what they are, not what we want them to be.

Basically what he is trying to say here is that everything you know and love, will all someday come to an end and die. It’s sort of like that song “Do You Realize??” from The Flaming Lips, but instead of a 4-minute alternative rock song, we have a 2-hour long film that stretches this idea pretty plainly and simply but the visuals is where it is taken to a whole ‘nother level.

Right from the beginning of the film, von Trier gives us these slow-mo shots of leaves falling, people yelling, horses collapsing, and the world we all know and love, basically disintegrating right before our own eyes. Trier is able to bring some real-life beauty to the whole “end of the world” idea but I almost forgot about that sometimes because of his visuals. The location that this film is shot on, is just about perfect for this film because it’s big, secluded, and can also get very glum and dark which is where this film really starts to hit its mood in.  Trier has a vision that he’s not afraid to show off and that’s something I can easily say I have to give him props for.

Despite some beautiful visuals, von Trier sort of falls down when it comes to the actual “story” aspect of this film. Seeing that this is a very personal script for von Trier, since he did go through depression, it’s almost a no-brainer that he hits the nail on the head when it comes to making us feel the depressed and sad atmosphere that he probably felt for a long time but the whole story feels a like nothing is really happening and not really going anywhere. The film starts off focusing on Justine a lot with her depression and whatnot, but then the film focuses on her sister Claire, which is where I think the film kind of forgot about Justine’s problem and never fully resolved it. This felt messy to me and almost like von Trier was trying to branch-out both sissies but in a way it just didn’t work here.

Another problem I had with this film was the fact that Justine is not a very likable or enjoyable character to have your film centered around most of the time. She over-does the whole “I’m sad” act way too much throughout this film and is sort of just left there just hanging around, looking like she could be pushed over and not even care. Just having your character stand there and be depressed for some odd reason and never explain, doesn’t make your character compelling or dynamic, it just makes that person seem more and more like a distraction from all of the other good elements of the film. I don’t know why she didn’t do a lot of the things that she did, especially by the end, but to be honest, I couldn’t say I cared all that much.

Although her character isn’t very strong, Kirsten Dunst is still very good at selling this character and does a great job with what she is given. Most von Trier female leads have to endure it all, which is what Dunst kind of has to do as well, but it’s more about focusing on how well Dunst can put act on one emotion and make that all seem believable and well-rounded. I think she was able to do that here and provide a more dramatic center for this film. Also, for anybody wanting to see some of Maryjane Watson’s boobies, you’ll get to see them as she lies naked for a good 3 minutes. MY spidey sense is tingling! Ohhh owwwww!

The rest of the cast is pretty good too. Charlotte Gainsbourg starts off as a total bitch sister as Claire, but then soon starts to warm up as shit really starts to hit the fan, and this is something that Gainsbourg is able to pull-off real well; Keifer Sutherland is great as Claire’s husband, and provides that dirty charm that he always has; and Alexander Skarsgård is also nice to watch as Justine’s hubby who basically is always push to the side. My man should have known what he was getting himself into.

Even though the film really didn’t do much for me in the beginning, it picked up a lot by the end when everything really starts to get chaotic and I think this was what won me over. The way these people act seems so real and so genuine that if I was put in this situation, I think I would do the same exact thing. I’m not saying that all humans think like me but when it comes to the end of all humanity, I think that there is just a time when you have to act and almost give up. I didn’t feel cheated by the ending and I think it was the perfect way to end a film that really wanted to build-up to its last shot, which is something it does masterfully.

Consensus: The narrative may be a bit off, and things sure as hell don’t really pick-up for the longest time, but Melancholia is a show-case of Kirsten Dunst’s acting skills as a female lead, and von Trier’s brilliant ways of creating beautiful visuals and having them add another layer to the emotion’s of his films.

7.5/10=Rental!!