Tag Archives: Udo Kier

Dragged Across Concrete (2019) Review

Time: 159 Minutes
Cast:
Mel Gibson as Brett Ridgeman
Vince Vaughn as Anthony Lurasetti
Tory Kittles as Henry Johns
Michael Jai White as Biscuit
Jennifer Carpenter as Kelly Summer
Laurie Holden as Melanie Ridgeman
Fred Melamed as Mr. Edmington
Udo Kier as Friedrich
Thomas Kretschmann as Lorentz Vogelmann
Don Johnson as Chief Lt. Calvert
Director: S. Craig Zahler

DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE follows two police detectives (Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn) who find themselves suspended when a video of their strong-arm tactics is leaked to the media. With little money and no options, the embittered policemen descend into the criminal underworld and find more than they wanted waiting in the shadows.

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I haven’t seen any of S. Craig Zahler’s other movies with Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99, but I’ve definitely heard of them and have been meaning to get around to them for some time. I also heard about some controversial Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn movie that was being made, and it turns out it’s this movie, didn’t learn until recently that Zahler actually directed it. I heard it was some crime drama, but beyond that and the cast involved, I didn’t really know much about it. Dragged Across Concrete like its title suggests is a grim crime thriller, written, directed and performed exceptionally, and it’s one of my favourites of 2019 thus far.

Dragged Across Concrete boasts a sharply great script from director S. Craig Zahler, from the slowly paced storytelling to the effective dialogue. As I start, I think I should address the elephant in the room, or at least one of them. Ever since the premise of Dragged Across Concrete has been announced, people had been declaring this a MAGA pandering and all around bigoted movie. Given my very apparent praise for this movie already, you could probably already tell that I don’t agree with this. Almost everyone in the movie is not what we’d call ‘a good person’, and definitely not the recently suspended main characters, who are looking for ‘compensation’ after abusing their power as police officers. Sure the movie doesn’t exactly tell you that what they are doing is bad, but it certainly doesn’t endorse the main characters’ actions either, it just shows what they are and give some insight why they’re doing them. The characters are fully developed, fleshed out and feel real, especially the lead characters. People are going to have different opinions about the majority of them, but generally I think we can all agree that they are flawed yet human, with their own lives to lead that we get to have a glimpse at. They are still in the grey area of morality as they have both good and bad aspects to them. Really the only flat out ‘pure evil’ characters in the film that aren’t shown to have any redeeming qualities whatsoever are the dangerous masked men led by Thomas Kretschmann who appear, create chaos and kill people excessively. We don’t really get to learn about these particular characters or why they are how they are, but they are quite intimidating when they are on screen. It is a very bleak movie, the world these characters inhabit just feels unpleasant, the tone borders on nihilism, and as I said many of the characters are hard to root for. It’s generally easy for me to watch these kinds of movies (in fact I kind of love watching them) but I do know that some will find this to be a tough watch. There is one character who’s introduced, and their purpose is ultimately used for shock value (no spoilers), and while people will be split on that, I thought it worked well for the movie. Dragged Across Concrete is quite long at 2 hours 40 minutes, so you really need to be prepared for that. Although I was invested for much of the movie, I feel like it could’ve been cut out a good 10-15 minutes. Much of the movie takes its time, but it feels purposeful and not necessarily self indulgent. It builds up the personality of the characters and the world that they inhabit. Despite some of the more slower pacing throughout, it all comes together at the end to conclude very well.

Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn are the lead characters, and they were both great in their roles. Now this is Mel Gibson, and while there’s certainly going to be some people who have issues with him even in this movie (understandably), I almost feel like his casting here was a deliberate choice. Gibson generally delivers and this is no exception, this is one of his best performances, if not his best. Although I haven’t seen Vaughn’s other dramatic work like in True Detective or Brawl in Cell Block 99 (another Zahler film), I can say that he’s a great dramatic actor and he was really good here. Gibson and Vaughn are very easy to buy as two cops who have been partnered with each other for a while, and their dynamic was really great. The rest of the supporting cast further grounds the movie with Tory Kittles, Michael Jai White, Jennifer Carpenter, Laurie Holden, Don Johnson all doing well with their performances, no matter how brief they may be.

Again, this is the first movie I’m seeing from S. Craig Zahler, and I can say that he’s great at what he does, it’s a really great looking movie. I’ve heard that his other movies are considerably more violent, but he handles the violence well here. The violence flashes rather quickly on screen and doesn’t happen as much as you think it would be, but when it’s present it feels grisly and realistic, it’s not overplayed but the impact is still there nonetheless.

Dragged Across Concrete won’t work for everyone, it’s very long, it can be a hard watch, and it’s likely to provoke some people. However I thought that it was a generally well made movie, from the cast (particularly Gibson and Vaughn), to the direction and the story, it’s one of my favourite movies of 2019 thus far. I definitely want to see Zahler’s other movies now, he’s already proven with Dragged Across Concrete that he’s a really great filmmaker, and I’d love to see what he makes next.

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.

Nymphomaniac: Vol. 2 (2013) Review

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Explicit material & content that may disturb.
Cast:
Charlotte Gainsbourg as Joe (ages 35–50)
Stacy Martin as young Joe (ages 15–31)
Stellan Skarsgård as Seligman
Shia LaBeouf as Jerôme Morris
Christian Slater as Joe’s father
Jamie Bell as K
Willem Dafoe as L
Mia Goth as P
Michaël Pas as Older Jerôme
Jean-Marc Barr as the Debtor Gentleman
Udo Kier as The Waiter
Director: Lars von Trier

The continuation of Joe’s (Charlotte Gainsbourg) sexually dictated life delves into the darker aspects of her adulthood, obsessions and what led to her being in Seligman’s (Stellan Skarsgard) care.

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I’m assuming that if you’re reading this review, you’ve already read my review of Lars von Trier’s divisive Nymphomaniac Volume 1. While I didn’t love the movie, it was very interesting, with some great performances and von Trier had a very unique style and vision (it was the first film of his that I saw). That was only the first half of the story however, and I heard very different reactions to the second volume. Some said that it was better than the first volume, others says that it was a significant drop in quality. I actually quite liked Nymphomaniac Volume 2, though it is (understandably) less enjoyable than the first volume, and the rather obnoxiously forcibly bleak ending really took away from both movies.

Long story short, if you didn’t like Volume 1 at all (as in was disturbed by it or found it to be absolutely horrible as a movie), Volume 2 isn’t going to be that big of a difference for you, whether you like or dislike it more. Otherwise, if there was something that you liked or were interested in with Volume 1, you’re pretty much going to need to watch the second volume. I do recommend reading my review of Volume 1 as there are some similar things between the two volumes and I don’t want to repeat myself too much. I’ll do my best to mostly talk about the new parts and differences between the two. Volume 2 is as long as Volume 1 at around 2 hours, despite this, instead of being split up into 5 chapters, it is split up into 3 chapters. It really does feel like the second part of the story, there’s not opening credits or anything like that, it goes straight into the rest of the story. There are clear differences between the two volumes and you can tell why Nymphomaniac is split at this particular point. Volume 2 is much darker, while the first volume had spots of dark comedy, the second volume has just specks of dark comedy. While the main character of Joe had many sexual experiences seemingly without any consequences in the first part of the story, without spoiling anything, let’s just say that things just go extremely bad for her in the second part. For example, at the end of Volume 1, Joe is numb from sex, which is particularly significant to her given that she’s a sex addict (or nymphomaniac as she self proclaims to be). So she has to find extreme methods of reigniting her sexuality. While Volume 1 at many points could be hard to watch, this second volume is much more so. In that it’s a less enjoyable experience, but I can’t exactly fault the movie for that. Once again it doesn’t feel like it’s necessarily done for shock value (though knowing Lars von Trier, that probably did play a part in some of the things that happen), it feels honest for the story that’s being told. There are parts that do feel more riveting than the first volume, but it is quite possible that this is because it has less chapters than the first volume or that it is darker. Despite this, enjoyment wise I preferred Volume 1 much more. The conversations between Joe and Seligman are once again interesting and one of the best parts of the Nymphomaniac movies, though once again they could be a little self indulgent (for lack of a better term to use while avoiding the term ‘pretentious’), though they don’t go to absurd levels like the first volume could be at times. Then there’s the ending which has divided a lot of people. Now I knew the ending a long time before going in and I hated the ending already. I did hear about people’s defence of the ending and I kept that in mind while watching both movies, and it still didn’t work for me after watching it. I won’t spoil what it is, but basically it involves one of the two main characters in present day (played by Gainsbourg and Skarsgard) doing something incredibly out of character. While it may have been meant to be a twist, it feels really forced. There’s nothing even small during the movie leading up to the end that hints towards it happening at all, just because people won’t expect a twist to happen doesn’t make it good. This also affects one of the best parts of the movie(s), the conversations between the two characters, instead of making you see them in a different light, it just makes them feel confused and it doesn’t really work or make sense. As a result it all just feels like a cheap way for Lars von Trier to make one of his typically depressing endings. While apparently he has many of these types of endings, I’m sure that they aren’t this lazily bleak. The ending is more than just underwhelming and disappointing, it’s infuriating and does notably detract from the overall film. I’ll just say that if the film ended with some random character we’ve never seen before appearing out of nowhere and killed both characters, it would feel less frustrating. Then again you might actually like the ending, some actually do.

The acting all around is great once again. Charlotte Gainsbourg was fantastic, this time she’s much more front and centre to what was going on. In Volume 1 she was very present throughout, but only in her scenes when she’s telling her stories. Here’s she’s actually present in the flashbacks and being present throughout most of them. She has to go through a lot, both physically and emotionally. Joe’s story in the first volume wasn’t particularly light but the second volume is especially dark. I’ve not seen much from Gainsbourg in terms of acting but from Nymphomaniac she has really shown herself to be an excellent actress. The scenes with Gainsbourg and Stellan Skarsgard in the present day are great as well and their conversations are really one of the more interesting parts of the Nymphomaniac story, especially how they played off each other with how different they are with regards to their outlook on life and all that. Stacy Martin is once again great as the younger Joe, despite her pretty much being the lead in Volume 1 though, in Volume 2 she’s not in the movie as much, given that in this point in Joe’s telling of the story she’s like in her mid 30s. Shia LaBeouf and some of the other actors return to their roles, once again they are really good and served their purposes well but really they are supporting players. There are mainly 3 newer actors added into the second part of Nymphomaniac. Willem Dafoe at one point is in the movie playing Joe’s boss, he doesn’t really get a lot of screentime but Dafoe brings a lot to whatever role he’s in and here it’s no exception. Jamie Bell plays a sadist who Joe comes in contact with in order to somewhat rehabilitate her sexuality. This is a role that Bell hasn’t really taken on before or since and he is suitably unnerving and violent, really great performance. Mia Goth is the other addition to the story later on, as Joe’s accomplice. This was really one of her first performances and she was really great in her role whenever she was on screen. It seemed like plenty of people were also impressed with her performance, seeing that she would go on to deliver more great performances in A Cure for Wellness, Suspiria and other movies.

Lars von Trier’s direction once again is impressive, with the cinematography being really stunning and direction-wise, a lot of impressive things being done. Regardless of how you feel about the story and all the things that happen, it’s clear watching this that he knows his way behind the camera. The sexual parts to everything is once again graphic and uncomfortable. This time there aren’t as many sex scenes, the sexual aspect of it is border more on fetishism, but again it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to titillate the audience, the sexual acts aren’t pornographic at all, they are actually more disturbing and even darker this time around. Despite some of my issues with Nymphomaniac, it didn’t feel exploitive. Volume 2 is arguably more uncomfortable in general, but that’s mainly because of the story. A weird thing I noticed that differed from the first volume is the lack of drawings, numbers and words that would sometimes appear on screen. Not that it was the glue holding everything together (the diagram of Joe parking a car certainly wasn’t the peak moment of Volume 1), it’s just something I noticed. Also to the second volume’s credit, it doesn’t make random directing decisions, like how it had one chapter with a smaller frame, and another chapter in completely black and white, it actually feels consistent throughout the movie.

Nymphomaniac Volume 2 mostly succeeds in telling the rest of the story. It is harder to watch, darker and more uncomfortable, however that seemed to work for the story. As I said and detailed earlier though, the ending really didn’t just disappoint, it really worked against and detracted a lot from the movie. So even aside from the fact that Volume 1 is more enjoyable to watch, Volume 2 ends with a horrible taste in the mouth, and not the good kind, thus making it not as good as the first part of the story. All in all, I understand why it was split into two parts, the first volume of the story was rather overwhelming and there was a lot of story to cover from what I’ve seen (haven’t seen the director’s cut). However, I think it still would’ve been possible to cut down some things from both volumes and release Nymphomaniac as one 3 hour long movie (or even 3 hours and a half). Nymphomaniac isn’t a movie I want to rewatch ever again and I don’t know if I can ever recommend it, but I guess the best thing I can say is that if my reviews of it made you the least bit interested in it, go check it out and hopefully you’ll get something out of it.

Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1 (2013) Review

Time: 117 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Explicit material & content that may disturb.
Cast:
Charlotte Gainsbourg as Joe (ages 35–50)
Stacy Martin as young Joe (ages 15–31)
Stellan Skarsgård as Seligman
Shia LaBeouf as Jerôme Morris
Christian Slater as Joe’s father
Uma Thurman as Mrs. H
Sophie Kennedy Clark as B
Connie Nielsen as Katherine (Joe’s mother)
Udo Kier as The Waiter
Director: Lars von Trier

A man named Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard) finds a fainted wounded woman (Charlotte Gainsbourg) in an alley and he brings her home. She tells him that her name is Joe and that she is nymphomaniac. Joe tells her life and sexual experiences with hundreds of men since she was a young teenager while Seligman tells about his hobbies, such as fly fishing, reading about Fibonacci numbers or listening to organ music.

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I’ve heard a lot about Lars von Trier, he’s one of the most controversial directors working today. Yet I hadn’t gotten around to watching any of his movies until now. I didn’t really know where the best place to start with him would be (given that his movies are disturbing, depressing, or both), so I just watched the movie I could easily access, Nymphomaniac. I had heard all about Nymphomaniac for a while, with some very polarised reactions to it, some loved it, others not so much.
Having watched the first half of it, while I’m not one of the people who loved it, I actually did like it quite a bit and there’s a lot of great things to it.

I want to preface this review by saying that I saw the movie on Netflix and at the beginning it said that the film I was going to watch is an abridged and ‘censored’ version. So it’s possible that the version I saw won’t be the version that you might see. Nymphomaniac Volume 1 is a slow moving arthouse movie that happens to be about sex. This movie is really conversations between Charlotte Gainsbourg telling her story to Stellan Skarsgard and we see flashbacks of that happening. It’s mainly broken up into 5 chapters (at least for the first half of the story). These conversations are really interesting, especially as Gainsbourg and Skarsgard are very different people and have different perspectives on what happened, definitely one of the highlights of the film. It was interesting to listen to their conversations. Quite often there are a lot of comparisons from objects to things that happened in Joe’s life, an example being a comparison between fly fishing and sex. I get that a lot of people found some bits of the discussions and the comparisons pretentious (and it is), and to be fair they go a little too ridiculous with it sometimes. With that said, I think a lot of these bits are intentionally ridiculous and add quite a bit of humour. Actually there are surprisingly quite a lot of effective comedic moments in the movie, which does lighten up things a bit. It really needed them, because it is a really uncomfortable and bleak movie, even when watching it by yourself (I would know). It does feel a tad repetitive in some of the things that happen but it’s not like the same things happening every time, with every chapter we learn something new about Joe. I will say that I didn’t really feel any emotion throughout this movie. It is a rather cold movie, and on the whole the most emotion I felt was uncomfortableness at certain moments. Now I was still interested in the movie despite this, but it’s not really a movie where you get emotionally invested or anything like that. Now this is a review of essentially half the story, and as of this point I haven’t watched Volume 2, so I can’t tell yet how the whole complete story works just yet.

There are a lot of actors in this movie and they do a great job in their roles. Charlotte Gainsbourg plays the lead character of Joe, we really just see her as she’s talking to Stellan Skarsgard’s character of Seligman and have a lot of conversations, both Gainsbourg and Skarsgard are great. In the flashbacks, the younger version of Joe is played by Stacy Martin, who does a fantastic job, in this volume, Martin really gets the lead in the movie. She has to do a lot of things, it’s a very challenging role and she absolutely nails it. Shia LaBeouf is also quite good in his (small) role here, though his English accent is a little hit or miss. We also have Christian Slater and Connie Nielsen as Joe’s parents, good in their limited screentime. We also get a bit of Uma Thurman in one chapter, also great. Really everyone did a good job in their roles.

I’ve only seen one movie from Lars von Trier now, but I can tell from his work on Nymphomaniac Volume 1 that he’s great at his craft. As this is a movie called Nymphomaniac, surrounding a sex addict, you can tell that there is a lot of sex shown on screen. However it actually isn’t exploitive or pornographic. It is basically as graphic as porn as you see pretty much everything, though apparently no actual sex was performed and there was a lot of body doubles, prosthetics and CGI face swapping involved. However it’s not particularly sexy, it doesn’t glamourize it at all, just portraying the sexual acts on screen with honesty to the story. It treated it much like how the movie Shame treated it (another movie about a sex addict), the sex actually has a point. As I said earlier, the version of Nymphomaniac I saw was apparently a ‘censored’ version, so I’m guessing there’s another version that’s much more graphic than this. There was some interesting editing choices made, with some scenes cutting to things like animals, and this mostly worked for me. This film would also have some visuals shown on screen, with words, numbers and shapes actually being drawn on screen during scenes (which surprised me). As much as I mostly loved Lars von Trier’s direction, there were some odd choices made that were out of place. For example, in chapter 3, the framing of the screen was much smaller compared to the rest of the movie, and I don’t really know why. Then in another chapter, it switched to black and white. Also the aforementioned visuals being shown on screen can be a little too much and trying too hard. I liked some of these moments, but we didn’t need a diagram to be drawn out showing Joe parking a car or things like that. They didn’t take the movie down a lot but it was a bit distracting.

Nymphomaniac Volume 1 is definitely not for everyone. It is a difficult to watch, slow moving arthouse movie about a sex addict. If you’re not immediately turned off by this concept and are interested in it based on my thoughts on the film, maybe you should check it out. However, it worked for me, The direction was mostly fantastic, the cast was great, and it was an effective story. With all that being said, this is only the first half of the movie, as of this moment writing this review I’ve just watched Volume 1 (and by the time I uploaded this review I would’ve watched Volume 2), so my view on part 1 could change depending on how the second part goes. It’s made me interested to watch the second half of the story, as well as von Trier’s other movies. Again though, I’ll probably need to watch Volume 2 before coming to a proper conclusion to the overall story.

American Animals (2018) Review

Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Violence, drug use & offensive language
Cast:
Evan Peters as Warren Lipka
Barry Keoghan as Spencer Reinhard
Blake Jenner as Chas Allen
Jared Abrahamson as Eric Borsuk
Udo Kier as Mr. Van Der Hoek
Ann Dowd as Betty Jean Gooch
Director: Bart Layton

Spencer Reinhard (Barry Keoghan), Warren Lipka (Evan Peters), Eric Borsuk (Jared Abrahamson) and Chas Allen (Blake Jenner) are four friends who live an ordinary existence in Kentucky. After a visit to Transylvania University, Lipka comes up with the idea to steal the rarest and most valuable books from the school’s library. As one of the most audacious art heists in U.S. history starts to unfold, the men question whether their attempts to inject excitement and purpose into their lives are simply misguided attempts at achieving the American dream.

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I had been hearing some small but noticeable attention for American Animals. The only names that I recognised were that of actors Barry Keoghan and Evan Peters and I knew that it was a heist movie based on a true story. Not a lot of people have seen the movie but the people who have really praised it heavily. After finally seeing the movie I can see why it has been receiving all the acclaim, especially with the performances and the way the story was told.

American Animals opens not with a message saying “This is based on a true story” but rather “This is a true story”, and it really does live up to that. It is worth noting that the director Bart Layton has made documentaries in the past, which has clearly influenced his way of telling the story. This movie has had some interesting ways of telling its story. Something that wasn’t shown in the trailers is that it’s partly retelling a story while also having documentary parts to it, with the real 4 people appearing on screen, mostly in an interview style to give commentary about their thoughts at the time and about what happened. Something I also liked is how it showed how some differently the real life people saw what happened, acknowledging the grey areas of what happened and that you have to pick and choose which you think happened (though the differences in perspectives were mostly focussed on smaller things). This can be a little jarring for some people but it mostly worked for me. I guess the only times that went a little too far is when the real life people interacted with the actors, that was a little too much but fortunately we don’t get a ton of that. The first half of the movie is very fantastical as the 4 main characters are planning out the heists. These people are shown to be amateurs with them using movies as a way to figure out how to perform the heist, they even give each other codenames at one point like in Reservoir Dogs. It’s fun to see them try to plan everything and it all feels like everything is going to go as planned. The second half of the movie however turns drastically realistic and darkly serious, when the actual heist happens. As comedic and entertaining as the first half is, the second half is very tense. These characters are not prepared for their situation and it all falls apart. All around the movie manages to be both thought provoking, yet entertaining as well.

The major characters are really the 4 main leads played by Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Jared Abrahamson and Blake Jennifer. All of them are great with Peters particularly standing out. They do a good job at not necessarily making them likable but fun and interesting to watch. They each have their own motivation, while they are trying to get money out of the heist, they really have their own personal reasons for doing all this. They particularly shine in the last half when the heist becomes really messy.

As previously mentioned, Bart Layton has made documentaries in the past, and so he brings his filmmaking style to this story. His direction is one of the most stand out parts to the movie and part of the reason it works so well. It is very stylistic and as previously mentioned it does a good job at portraying ‘true events’, with it also cutting between the actors and the real life people. The editing was a big part of why the movie worked so well, some of the best editing of the year. The tone in the story is complimented by the direction, the first half being fantastical, and the second half dialling up the tension level to 11, with the actual heist being incredibly stressful, its really like you’re right there with the characters.

American Animals is a surprising movie, with great performances and a unique take on the ‘based on a true story’ type of movie. It also features some of the best directing and editing in a film this year. Unfortunately, not enough people are seeing it, and if you haven’t you really should, it might be one of the surprise best films of 2018.

Suspiria (1977) Review

Time: 98 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains violence
Cast:
Jessica Harper as Suzy Bannion
Stefania Casini as Sara
Flavio Bucci as Daniel
Miguel Bosé as Mark (dubbed in the English release by Gregory Snegoff)
Alida Valli as Miss Tanner
Joan Bennett as Madame Blanc
Udo Kier as Dr. Frank Mandel (dubbed by Frank von Kugelgen)
Barbara Magnolfi as Olga (dubbed by Carolyn De Fonseca)
Eva Axén as Pat Hingle
Director: Dario Argento

Suzy (Jessica Harper) travels to Germany to attend ballet school. When she arrives, late on a stormy night, no one lets her in, and she sees Pat (Eva Axén), another student, fleeing from the school. When Pat reaches her apartment, she is murdered. The next day, Suzy is admitted to her new school, but has a difficult time settling in. She hears noises, and often feels ill. As more people die, Suzy uncovers the terrifying secret history of the place.

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Months ago I watched Suspiria in preparation of the remake coming out later this year. Now in the month of Halloween, I decided to give my thoughts on it now. I had been hearing about Suspiria for the longest time, it had always been called one of the best horror movies of all time. I wasn’t even sure what the movie is, I know it was a horror movie from the 70s involving dancing and some very distinct colours but that’s it. Having seen it though, I can see why this movie is so beloved, with its visual style and look, some iconic scenes, so much great things are in this movie. Some aspects don’t work as well but the pros more than outweigh the cons.

You get the feeling that something is not right from the very beginning of the movie, and all the way to the end this movie really had my attention. I guess you could say that Suspiria is style over substance and you’d have a strong argument there, yet it actually works. Despite this, there is some exposition which can be a little too much at times but is a minor issue and didn’t bother me too much. Also, it is worth noting that originally the director wanted to use 12 year olds but the studio understandably didn’t agree to it to avoid controversy, so it was rewritten to be in their 20s. I bring this up because there are at times with some of the dialogue where it does feel a little childish and clearly some of the original dialogue still remain from earlier drafts. Horror movies don’t really affect me that much but I will say that Suspiria really did a great job at getting under my skin. Suspiria is just under an hour and 40 minutes long and it really works for me. It can feel drawn out at times and I can see why some would find it to really drag, but personally I was so caught up with the atmosphere and the mystery that I wasn’t really a problem for me.

There isn’t a ton of things to the characters really, especially when it comes to the people running the school, they particularly come across as being very one note. One thing that makes judging the acting really difficult is the fact that many of the actors are multi lingual and didn’t necessarily speak the same language, so a lot of dubbing was done (more on that later). It can also explain some of the disconnect with the actors with each other because it didn’t look like they knew what the other was saying (and that’s because a lot of the time that’s the case). Fortunately quite a lot of the movie is style over substance that you are able to forget about it for the most part. The acting isn’t really that great but I thought it was good enough for the movie. Jessica Harper was likable in her role of the lead character, the same went for her friend played by Stefania Casini.

Director Dario Argento’s work is a big part of why the movie works, he really creates such a fantastic atmosphere with the lighting, cinematography, music, pretty much everything. One of Suspiria’s highlights is the look of the movie, the cinematography by Luciano Tovoli is absolutely breathtaking. There are so many neon colours, red, blue, green, it is an absolute feast for the eyes, even if you aren’t super into horror movies but love watching movies with great colours and cinematography, Suspiria is kind of worth a watch. A lot of the time it doesn’t necessarily make sense as to why the colours are like that, but you can look past it. The visual effects are pretty dated and don’t really hold up well today. The music by Goblin is great and hypnotic, really adding to the tone and atmosphere of the movie. However I think it goes a little too loud at points, to the point where it gets distracting and overshadows the rest of the scene. The violence is graphic and stylised, really memorable, a lot of the practical effects are great. The editing doesn’t always work, like the transitions between songs are really jarring and sudden and cut off. As I mentioned earlier, there is a lot of dubbing, a lot of it is downright terrible but it’s fine if you don’t look closely at the actors’ lips.

Suspiria definitely lives up to all its praise of being one of the most iconic horror movies. It does have some dated aspects and some issues, but on the whole I think it’s a really solid horror thriller. As previously mentioned, Suspiria is having a remake which will release in about a month. I will admit I wasn’t really hyped for it (not because I don’t think the original can’t be touched, because it does show its age), all the polarising reactions are actually making me curious. As long as it tries being its own thing while staying true enough to the original that it can be justified being called a remake, I think it’ll be something unique.