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Melancholia (2011) Review

Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language & nudity
Cast:
Kirsten Dunst as Justine
Charlotte Gainsbourg as Claire
Alexander Skarsgård as Michael
Kiefer Sutherland as John
Cameron Spurr as Leo
Charlotte Rampling as Gaby
John Hurt as Dexter
Jesper Christensen as Little Father
Stellan Skarsgård as Jack
Brady Corbet as Tim
Udo Kier as The Wedding Planner
Director: Lars von Trier

On the night of her wedding, Justine (Kirsten Dunst) is struggling to be happy even though it should be the happiest day of her life. It was an extravagant wedding paid for by her sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and brother-in-law (Kiefer Sutherland) who are trying to keep the bride and all the guests in line. Meanwhile, Melancholia, a blue planet, is hurtling towards the Earth. Claire, Justine’s sister, is struggling to maintain composure with fear of the impending disaster.

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I had heard about Melancholia for a while, I heard that it was Lars von Trier’s most accessible film yet, which wasn’t an easy thing to narrow down to considering his filmography. After watching and mostly liking his two part film Nymphomaniac, I decided to check this movie out. Melancholia is a great and impactful film about depression, with great performances and some really good direction. It’s not for everyone and is a bit overlong, but I thought it was really good.

Melancholia is pretty long at around 2 hours and 15 minutes. The film is split into two parts, one titled Justine (Kirsten Dunst) which is focussed on her wedding, and the other is titled Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), which is more focussed on the approaching planet of Melancholia potentially being the end of Earth. I don’t have a lot of problems with the movie but I will say that it might be a little overlong, it’s mostly with the first half. The first half is important in showing glimpses of Justine’s depression and all that, however this wedding section feels a little too drawn out and could’ve been shortened quite a bit. You do need to know going into Melancholia that it’s pretty slow paced, particularly early in the movie. Despite the plot sounding large scale on paper, it really is a character driven movie, and is more intimate than you’d think it would be. You have to really be focussed on everything that’s going on or you’re just going to lose interest in it all, I was and I had a good time with it. Melancholia is also a very artsy movie, with the way some of it is written and the way certain things are shown, and that could turn people off, for me it didn’t really. The first 8 minutes is full of just slow moving images and video, it could annoy some but personally I though it was fantastic and really haunting. Now know that I’m basing it off Nymphomaniac and what apparently is in von Trier’s other movies, but Melancholia doesn’t have this overwhelming feeling of just absolute bleakness that’s in his other movies. Nor does it force a ton of thematic elements all at the audience or anything like that. It’s much more straightforward, with the main theme being really about depression, and the parallels of Justine’s depression with the looming planet. Despite it being Lars’s most accessible movie, it’s not necessarily an easy watch, it’s a rather sad movie (as you can gather from the title, it’s not just in reference to the approaching planet) and as mentioned earlier, it’s a bit of a slow burn. There’s a reason why this movie along with Antichrist and Nymphomaniac have been called the Depression Trilogy. Without spoiling anything, despite knowing the ending, the last scene of the movie was really impactful and effective.

The acting all around is fantastic. Kirsten Dunst gives a career’s best performance in the lead role of Justine as someone with depression. A big part of the film is her character going through depression and she carries it incredibly well. It’s not a very showy performance, she just really embodies the character incredibly. Charlotte Gainsbourg is about as equally great as Dunst’s sister Claire. The relationship between the two sisters are one of the driving forces of the movie, especially how differently the two react to the looming threat of Melancholia. Justine seems to feel nothing, whereas Claire is constantly worried about it. The rest of the supporting cast are all great as well, from Kiefer Sutherland as Justine’s brother-in-low husband, Stellan Skarsgard as her boss, John Hurt as her father, Charlotte Rampling as her mother and Alexander Skarsgard as her husband. Most of them are just in the first half, we do however also get Sutherland in the second half, and his performance in Melancholia might be one of his best. The only thing about the casting that bothers me a little is that both Stellan and Alexander Skarsgard are in this movie, but they don’t play father and son or relatives or anything, so it’s a little distracting.

It seems like no one directs like Lars von Trier, his work on this movie is nothing short of fantastic. The cinematography is stunning and beautiful, and is done incredibly well. Some of the editing is a little weird where there are unnecessarily a lot of cuts done in many scenes, which is something that von Trier does sometimes. I guess it’s something that you have to get used to when it comes to his films. Throughout the film there is this sense of dread, with the whole thing about the planet Melancholia potentially going to destroy Earth, and it’s effectively haunting. While his films are usually more gritty and grounded, this film does involve some larger scale elements, with the whole film surrounding a planet potentially colliding with Earth. Now it’s not a full on sci-fi movie and most of it doesn’t have a bunch of crazy visuals, but nonetheless these big visual moments are also done really well.

Melancholia is probably the easiest of von Trier’s films to digest, by far the most accessible. I know this, because when it comes to recommending the movie, I don’t have to necessarily give a big warning about what his movies are like and all that. It is still not the most fun film to watch and it is a little overlong but it’s an incredibly well made and directed film and the performances are fantastic, especially from Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg. If you’re open to depressing slow-moving art films, I’d say definitely give Melancholia a chance, it’s really great.

Assassin’s Creed (2016) Review

Time: 115 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence and Offensive Language
Cast:
Michael Fassbender as Callum “Cal” Lynch and Aguilar de Nerha
Marion Cotillard as Dr. Sofia Rikkin
Jeremy Irons as Alan Rikkin
Brendan Gleeson as Joseph Lynch
Charlotte Rampling as Ellen Kaye
Michael K. Williams as Moussa
Denis Ménochet as McGowen
Ariane Labed as Maria
Director: Justin Kurzel

Cal Lynch (Michael Fassbender) travels back in time to 15th-century Spain through a revolutionary technology that unlocks the genetic memories contained in his DNA. There, he lives out the experiences of Aguilar de Nerha, a distant relative who’s also a member of the Assassins, a secret society that fights to protect free will from the power-hungry Templar Order. Transformed by the past, Cal begins to gain the knowledge and physical skills necessary to battle the oppressive organization in the present.

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Assassin’s Creed was one of my most anticipated films of 2016, which was unusual because that (along with Warcraft) was a video game movie. I wasn’t just curious because I liked the video games. It had some great talent involved, with Macbeth 2015 director Justin Kurzel and actors like Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard involved. It could’ve been something special, but watching this movie reminded me to never get excited for video game movies, because 95% of them won’t be good. Assassins Creed is not terrible and is just okay but it’s a barely an above average flick and is ultimately wasted potential.

I liked the Assassins Creed games but that didn’t improve my enjoyment of the movie. I am glad that they tried a different story within the Assassins Creed universe instead of trying to replicate use the story and characters from a game but it didn’t really change much. It is surprising how little I cared about the plot, its really boring during most of it. One of the biggest worries about the movie is that most of the time the movie would take place in modern day in this prison of sorts, and only some of the time is spent with Michael Fassbender as his ancestor as an assassin. Unfortunately that’s the case for the movie. As for how much time we actually spend in the flashbacks, from what I can remember there were only 3 to 4 sequences, and they were for action scenes. The prison sequences aren’t interesting at all and really drag. The characters also aren’t interesting, the only reason you’re giving them a chance is because many of the actors you recognise as being great in other roles. I personally couldn’t recall anything about the characters. The movie seems to have ended on a point for it to be open to sequels that are never going to be made. Despite it being under a couple of hours long, the movie really drags from start to finish, it almost takes real effort to make all the ideas of the Assassins boring in a movie.

This movie does have a lot of great actors, Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Michael Kenneth Williams. You can see them doing well in their roles but their roles are incredibly limited because of how underdeveloped their characters and there’s not much really that they do. Aside from a random scene of Michael Fassbender going nuts and singing about how he’s crazy, there’s nothing particularly memorable about the performances. Even if Jeremy Irons went to Dungeon and Dragons levels of crazy that would’ve added some level of entertainment to the movie.

The direction by Justin Kurzel a lot of the time was really good, the action sequences were nice to watch and the cinematography was pretty good. The problem is that I was just not interested in the story and so felt bored a lot of the time, even during the well done action scenes. I don’t really get why the violence was bloodless, the Assassins Creed games weren’t bloodfests but they had blood, adding blood would’ve spiced the scenes up a bit. It was no doubt done in order to increase the box office and given the state and reception of the movie, it really needed all the money it could get, so maybe it was a wise decision. The score by Jed Kurzel was also really good.

Assassin’s Creed is still better than most video game movies but that isn’t really saying a lot as most of them are terrible. It is nice seeing these great actors give okay performance and watching a lot of the action scenes. But it is so difficult to care about what’s going on that it diffuses a lot of the decent aspects of the film. I don’t know if you would be interested in the movie, even if you liked the Assassins Creed games. I guess if you’re somewhat curious about this movie, check it out if you’ve got nothing better to watch, otherwise you’re not missing much.

Red Sparrow (2018) Review

Time: 140 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, sexual violence, rape, cruelty and offensive language
Cast:
Jennifer Lawrence as Dominika Egorova
Joel Edgerton as Nate Nash
Matthias Schoenaerts as Ivan Vladimirovich Egorov
Charlotte Rampling as “Matron”
Mary-Louise Parker as Stephanie Boucher
Jeremy Irons as General Vladimir Andreievich Korchnoi
Ciarán Hinds as Colonel Zakharov
Joely Richardson as Nina Egorova
Bill Camp as Marty Gable
Director: Francis Lawrence

Prima ballerina Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) faces a bleak and uncertain future after she suffers an injury that ends her career. She soon turns to Sparrow School, a secret intelligence service that trains exceptional young people to use their minds and bodies as weapons. Egorova emerges as the most dangerous Sparrow after completing the sadistic training process. As she comes to terms with her new abilities, Dominika meets a CIA agent (Joel Edgerton) who tries to convince her that he is the only person she can trust.

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Red Sparrow is a movie I was aware of. It went through a lot of development, from Darren Aronofsky in talks to direct it, then David Fincher was in talks to direct with Rooney Mara to star in the lead role, before finally ending with Francis Lawrence set to direct and Jennifer Lawrence set to star in the lead role. Not going to lie, hearing the prospect of David Fincher directing a spy movie, only for Francis Lawrence to get the job let me down a little (no disrespect to Lawrence, he’s made some good movies). I still had interest in the film but I really didn’t know what to expect. Red Sparrow was actually better than I thought it would be. It had a riveting plot, was well directed and had some good performances, especially from Jennifer Lawrence.

Red Sparrow is based on the book of the same name by a retired CIA operative named Jason Matthews. However I haven’t read the book so I can’t comment on any potential differences from the book. Red Sparrow is 2 hours and 20 minutes long and while it did really feel it’s length, the story really did have my interest. You have to know that this is a slower paced spy thriller, not a straight up action spy movie. There are plenty of twists and turns from start to finish and involved with every character. Whether or not said twists will hold up on a rewatch remains to be seen. The second half of Red Sparrow oddly seemed slower paced than the first half. Part of why this movie was so divisive is the hard R content, with the violence and sexual violence. While I can see why this turned a lot of people off, I felt that it was handled well, it was brutal enough and didn’t shy away from it, yet it wasn’t too over reliant or self indulgent on it. I think Francis Lawrence has shown himself to be at his best when he’s allowed to go into R rated territory, films like The Hunger Games, I am Legend and maybe even Constantine might be even better had he been allowed to go into those levels. The film ends with a possible set up for a sequel, I do hope that this ends up happening.

The cast all do well here. Jennifer Lawrence is the lead of Red Sparrow and this is one of her best performances yet. She really throws herself into this character who goes through a lot over the course of the movie and she gives it her all. Her Russian accent at time doesn’t always work and can slip out from time to time but it’s passable enough, and her performance aside from that is fantastic. Joel Edgerton was also really good in his role as a CIA operative who comes across Jennifer Lawrence’s character. Although Lawrence and Edgerton are great in Red Sparrow, I really didn’t buy their relationship, I could buy them working together but I never bought them actually falling in love with each other, and I know that’s what the movie was trying to show. It may well be that the writing for them wasn’t strong enough. Supporting actors like Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker and Jeremy Irons all play their roles well.

I was really impressed with Francis Lawrence’s direction here, on top of this movie being his best film, it’s the best direction of a movie I’ve seen from him. Red Sparrow looks visually great and is well put together. Also as I said earlier, the more intense scenes are handled quite well, with the right amount of brutality that’s needed. The score by James Newton Howard is also really good and adds to the movie.

Red Sparrow deserved more praise than it received. It’s really not for everyone, it is brutal and it is a long watch. But for me, the film is well directed, had my attention and had some really good performances, particularly from Jennifer Lawrence who is great here. I do hope we get a sequel and eventually a trilogy, adapting the 2 other books in the series. I’m not sure how different the first movie is from the first book but I’m sure that there’s a way to continue the series. Francis Lawrence, Jennifer Lawrence and the rest of the cast and crew did a great job here and I’d love to see them return again to this series and these characters.

2016 Oscar Predictions

When you look at it in the grand scheme of things, movie awards really don’t matter. There are plenty of movies that should win but don’t, some of them don’t even get nominated, and there are some movies that don’t really deserve to win, but win anyway. So no matter what happens during the awards ceremony, it doesn’t really matter. But still, it’s fun to predict what movies will win and at the same time state what you think should win. Since everyone else is doing it, I decided to give my predictions for the 2016 Academy Awards. I have watched most of the films in the major categories but occasionally there’s a movie like The Hateful Eight which I can’t or just haven’t seen, so just keep that in mind.

* – Haven’t seen yet

BEST PICTURE

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The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Room*
Spotlight

Will Win – The Revenant
Should Win – The Revenant
Should’ve Been Nominated – Carol

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Best Director

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Adam McKay – The Big Short
George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
Alejandro G. Iñárritu – The Revenant
Lenny Abrahamson – Room*
Tom McCarthy – Spotlight

Will Win – Alejandro G. Iñárritu – The Revenant
Should Win – George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
Should’ve Been Nominated – Todd Haynes – Carol

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BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

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Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Will Win – Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Should Win – Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

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BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

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Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room*
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years*
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Will Win – Brie Larson, Room
Should Win – Cate Blanchett, Carol
Should’ve Been Nominated – Rooney Mara, Carol (instead of being nominated for supporting)

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BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

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Christian Bale, The Big Short
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Will Win – Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Should Win – Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Should’ve Been Nominated – Benicio Del Toro, Sicario

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ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

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Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight*
Rooney Mara, Carol
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Will Win – Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Should Win – Rooney Mara, Carol

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BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Left to right: Steve Carell plays Mark Baum and Ryan Gosling plays Jared Vennett in The Big Short from Paramount Pictures and Regency Enterprises

The Big Short
Brooklyn
Carol
The Martian
Room*

Will Win – The Big Short
Should Win – The Big Short
Should’ve Been Nominated – Steve Jobs

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BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

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Bridge of Spies
Ex Machina*
Inside Out
Spotlight
Straight Outta Compton*

Will Win – Spotlight
Should Win – Spotlight
Should’ve Been Nominated – The Hateful Eight*

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ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

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Anomalisa*
Boy and the World*
Inside Out
Shaun the Sheep Movie*
When Marnie Was There*

Will Win – Inside Out
Should Win – Inside Out

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BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Bridge of Spies – Thomas Newman
Carol – Carter Burwell
The Hateful Eight – Ennio Morricone
Sicario – Johann Johannsson
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – John Williams

Will Win – The Hateful Eight
Should Win – The Hateful Eight
Should’ve Been Nominated – Mad Max: Fury Road – Junkie XL

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BEST SOUND EDITING

Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Sicario
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will Win – Mad Max: Fury Road
Should Win – Mad Max: Fury Road

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BEST SOUND MIXING

Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will Win – Mad Max: Fury Road
Should Win – Mad Max: Fury Road

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BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

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Bridge of Spies
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

Will Win – Mad Max: Fury Road
Should Win – Mad Max: Fury Road
Should’ve Been Nominated – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

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Carol
The Hateful Eight*
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Sicario

Will Win – The Revenant
Should Win – The Revenant
Should’ve Been Nominated – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

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Mad Max: Fury Road
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared*
The Revenant

Will Win – Mad Max: Fury Road
Should Win – Mad Max: Fury Road

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BEST COSTUME DESIGN

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Carol
Cinderella
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

Will Win – Mad Max: Fury Road
Should Win – Mad Max: Fury Road

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BEST FILM EDITING

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The Big Short
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Spotlight
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will Win – Mad Max: Fury Road
Should Win – Mad Max: Fury Road
Should’ve Been Nominated – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

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Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will Win – Mad Max: Fury Road
Should Win – Mad Max: Fury Road

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So what are your thoughts, what do you think will win, what do you think should win and what do you think should’ve been nominated? Comment below and let me know your predictions for 2016.