Film Criticism

A ★★★★½ review of Knight of Cups (2015)

"I wake up... And I've forgotten about it for a few minutes... And then I remember"

Terrence Malick makes films that are dense with hints, clues, allusions... They are philosophical investigations - He poses questions for us to consider, mull over, really chew upon. It is not for us to be fed but to hungrily process.

And here there is plenty to process: helicopters and earthquakes seem to be messengers sent from a folklorish father to his adrift son... Are they warnings? Monitoring? Protecting

A ★★★½ review of Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck (2015)

A documentary so painfully intimate that, at times, it feels intrusive.

Named after an often hilarious and always disturbing mixtape cobbled together by Kurt Cobain, Montage of Heck charts the life of one of the greatest rock and roll tragedies from his formative years up until the month prior to his death.

We see Kurt, as a child, walloping a piano whilst clutching a doll. We see Kurt hyperactive and boisterous but always smiling. We hear Kurt recount dubious tales of teenage promiscuity that

A ★★★½ review of Young & Beautiful (2013)

Marine Vacth smoulders as Isabelle, a modern day Belle de Jour. The difference being here, however, is that where Deneuve's Severine was reluctant and shy, Isabelle has an insatiable gusto and the knowledge of her own carnal abilities to wither any male gaze.

And gazes there are aplenty, from her own peeping-tom brother and bumbling step-father to the various Johns under her spell. Isabelle seems enraptured by her own magnetic charm over these saps.

The problem, however, lies not with the film

A ★★ review of Man of Steel (2013)

Well Zack Snyder, you have managed to do the exact opposite of Nolan's Batman Begins. There was no new life breathed into this stale franchise. There was no emotional engagement with an enlightening back story and, above all, there was no relatable human element which meant that there was, ultimately, no jeopardy.

How was this tonal wasteland achieved?

With a few vital ingredients including (but not limited to):

1. An insulting script - the laughable declaration by Lois Lane that she's "a Pul

A ★★★ review of The Dirties (2013)

Continuing along a road carved out by Benny's Video, Afterschool, and Man Bites Dog, The Dirties plumbs the same dark subject matter as We Need To Talk About Kevin but, on this occasion, to comic effect.

Whilst managing to distill humour and empathy from the tragicomic lives of the two protagonists, the director (Matt Johnson) pulls back too eagerly from assessing the true gravitas of the thoughts and actions it embraces and ends up coming across as a low brow blend of The Dreamers and Elephant

A ★★★★ review of Blackfish (2013)

A harrowing and thought-provoking film which identifies the role that violent schisms have in altering the behaviour of these fantastic leviathans.

Candid talking head interviews intertwined with home video footage help to colour the increasingly hopeless defence for retaining killer whales away from their natural environment.

The cries of naivety from ex-trainers, desperate to appear non-complicit in Sea World's actions, started to sound hollow and false. A certain amount of responsibility is

A ★★★★½ review of 12 Years a Slave (2013)

What can I write that hasn't already been said?

The films of Steve McQueen use, much like those of David Cronenberg, visceral, human, qualities to shape and tell their stories. Hunger dealt in blood, faeces and spittle, Shame was formed of sweat and semen and now 12 Years a Slave brings us tears, bile and slashed flesh. Where McQueen and Cronenberg divide, however, is in their sensibilities regarding the appropriation of these images. Cronenberg seems to rejoice in disgusting and terrifying his

A ★★★★ review of Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

A slight and intimate portrait of a folk singer drifting his way through life; crashing on sofas, arguing with skinflint managers and hitchhiking his way from state to state.

This could be a sad and mournful tale were it not infused with the sardonic wit of the Coens. Even the simplest task of one character passing a file to another is lent a dramatic and hefty comedic bent, one that starts chuckles and warms cockles.

Llewyn Davis is a despicable and despairing anti-hero who, despite our bette

A ★★★★ review of The Pervert's Guide to Ideology (2012)

The enigmatic Slavoj Zizek unleashes ideas and theories at a rat-a-tat-tat, frenzied, machine gun pace.

Sauntering from poetic musings on the ideologic blueprint of They Live to the duality of the closing scenes of Titanic, SZ never pauses for breath. Instead he unleashes swarms of scuttling insights upon the role of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in 20th century history before flying into readings of Antonioni's Zabriskie Point.

Does this all add up to more than the sum of its parts?

An addition

A ★★★★½ review of Her (2013)

Spike Jonze's fourth feature deliberates upon the concept of sentient melancholy and artificial longing. Themes which have before cropped up in his, Of Montreal-soundtracked, short - "I'm Here".

Discarding 50% of the letters from that film's title, Her plunges us into a muted, pastel world of intra-personal and inter-technologic dialogues. A world where, seemingly, even the most confidential tête-à-tête is falsified and invented. A world swirled by a backwards-glancing, affected lens. Yet a wor

A ★★★★ review of Cold Fish (2010)

Continuing in the tradition of Pasolini's Theorem & Takashi Miike's Visitor Q, Cold Fish warps and twists the idea of a stranger reshaping the dynamic of a family beyond all recognition.

What we are left with is a series of manic events and dubious actions that can only cause us to question our own moral codes.

Are the family closer because they can finally be honest with each other?

Georges Bataille suggested that human beings only truly exist in moments of sexual abandon and ultra violence

A ★★★★★ review of Contempt (1963)

This is Godard at his, seemingly, most personal. A heartbreaking tale of ethics, love and infidelity, soundtracked by a Georges Delerue score that could evanesce the most floe heart.

All of those Godardian tricks and references are paired down, ensuring that the only sledgehammer hit we take is to the solar plexus. The cerebral is cast out in favour of an emotional slug and, in doing so, the core storyline, of ferocious and snide non-cognitive war, becomes elevated to a delicately unrivalled he

A ★★★½ review of Stoker (2013)

Park Chan Wook's latest fare sits somewhere between the magnificence of his vengeance trilogy and the disappointment of Thirst.

So many aspects of this film thoroughly impress; the ear-gouging sound design (which manages to heap terror and tension upon the mere rolling of an egg), stunning cinematography - shots of skirts billowing in a windblown, Malickian, cornfield bring to mind superheroes and their capes in a pleasing and fitting manner considering the owner of the skirt - and intense set

A ★★★★ review of Post Tenebras Lux (2012)

Posing more questions than it answers, Carlos Reygadas' fourth film steers clear of the trappings of narrative and chooses instead to float through landscapes of animal, human, vegetative & demonic deeds. Lurching from expansive vistas to sweaty sex saunas and British mud-flecked rugby matches, Reygadas brings to mind the works of Andrei Tarkovsky, Ken Loach & Gaspar Noe (strange bedfellows indeed).

This film will inevitably divide audiences (note the glowing reviews from Little White Lies and

A ★★★★ review of Neighboring Sounds (2012)

This winding, claustrophobic tale of Brazilian life wrong foots you at every turn.

Much like Carlos Reygadas, Kleber Mendonça Filho mixes realistic portraits of modern family life with supernatural, dream-like, qualities. All with an effect that is simultaneously bewildering and bewitching.

From the very first jarring juxtaposition of, seemingly innocent, child play (although there are certain penal connotations to the arena in which this takes place) with heavy, foreboding drones, we are imme

A ★★★★ review of A Field in England (2013)

Ben Wheatley's psilocybic civil war mood piece delivers a solid thrashing of uncannily horrific comedy despite (or perhaps because of) its plot-light position.

Strange and obsidian imagery haunts the Cromwellian Merry Pranksters. A putrid black sun, forged from Kubrick's monolith, stalks Melancholia-like over the tree tops and the terrifying trance that locks Reece Shearsmith's Whitehead into a ghastly palsy as he exits tent calls to mind Laura Dern's own demonic gait in Inland Empire. Both are

A ★★★½ review of Only God Forgives (2013)

Ending with a proclamation to Alejandro Jodorowsky, OGF lacks the allegory drenched allure of the Chilean master directors work yet manages to tip a sly hat through a Santa Sangre-esque maternal marionette display.

Kristin Scott Thomas is deliciously manipulative and malevolent as the blood-lusting mother willing her all too Ryan Gosling son (being all Ryan Gosling) on to acts of vengeance-fuelled violence. KST is especially effervescent in a 'meeting the family' dinner scene portraying a level

A ★★★★ review of Nymphomaniac: Vol. I (2013)

Part one of the great Danish provocateur's deviant double bill proves to be a surprising coupling of pitch black comedy and a salacious dredging through the dark night of our heroine's soul.

There is a self awareness to Von Trier's latest effort that elevates it above bawdy exploitation. When Charlotte Gainsbourg scolds Stellan Skarsgård for his frequent and inconsistent tangental interjections, drawing assumed parallels between her escapades and his knowledge of fly fishing/Edgar Allen Poe/Bac
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