Film Review: mother!

Darren Aranofsky’s mother! is a tour deforce. Beginning with an usual set up, the film becomes stranger, and finishes with the wildest of crescendos.

A young woman is creating an idyllic home with her older husband, a writer who is struggling with writer’s block. Their peaceful existence is interrupted by a stranger who visits their remote house…

Written and directed by Darren Aranofsky, mother! is a most striking film. It is perhaps Aranofsky’s most audacious work, and a class above his last feature Noah. The film will intrigue viewers, surprise and horrify them. It is a picture that seems to be about one thing, but transforms into something rather surprising.

There are various themes at play in mother!. The central theme, however, is that of an unhealthy relationship and the extreme detriment that this can cause. As the film progresses, this strand becomes the focus. Nevertheless, there are a number of other aspects to the film. The cult of celebrity becomes increasingly relevant in the second half of the film. To an extent, mother! functions as a patent satire on the worship of celebrity, and indeed of religious fervour. These themes weave together adeptly in the second half of the film.

Aronofsky has crafted a single-location movie where said location has a pivotal role. Although they meld well together, mother! is a film of two halves. The first is unusual and increasingly unnerving. The second leads to all-out mania. The filmmaker ramps up the sense of anxiety and claustrophobia to an almost unbearable degree. Matthew Libatique’s cinematography is wonderful, and the sound design works to great effect. Jennifer Lawrence delivers a fine performance in the central role. Javier Bardem brings the disconcerting quality seen from him before, but the actor does this so well again. Michelle Pfeiffer is magnificent in a supporting role, while Ed Harris is as solid as ever.

Darren Aronofsky delivers a horror brimming with anxiety; one that turns quiet terror to outlandish fear. mother! is eye-opening, thought-provoking, and sublime.

Previews: Mother! Poster, Wind River, More!

Lots to see in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the new Mother! poster, Wind River, IT and more…

Mother! Poster

Here is the latest Mother! poster. The upcoming horror movie is written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, and stars Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, and Michelle Pfeiffer. A teaser trailer can be viewed here. Mother! will be screened at Venice Film Festival, and will hit UK cinemas on 15th September 2017.

IT Trailer

Above is the first full trailer for the upcoming adaptation of IT. The footage gives us a proper look at Pennywise. Based of Stephen King’s best-selling novel, the film is directed by Andrés Muschietti (Mama). The story follows a group of children in a town called Derry, where children have been disappearing. IT will be released on UK screens on 8th September 2017.

Wind River Poster

Wind River is about a U.S. fish and wildlife agent who joins a rookie FBI agent to solve a murder on an Indian reservation. The film stars Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Gil Birmingham, and Jon Bernthal. Wind River will be released in UK cinemas on 8th September 2017.

Flatliners Trailer

Here is the new trailer for Flatliners. The film seems to be a part remake, part sequel to the 1990 film. This new version stars Ellen Page, Diego Luna, and Nina Dobrev. The film is about a group of medical students who decide to trigger near-death experiences. Flatliners will hit UK cinemas on 29th September 2017.

American Assassin Poster

Here is the latest poster for upcoming action thriller American Assassin. The film is about a Black ops recruit under the instruction of a Cold War veteran. The pair are asked to investigate a wave of attacks. The film stars Dylan O’Brien, Michael Keaton, Sanaa Lathan, and Taylor Kitsch. American Assassin will be released on UK screens on 14th September 2017.

Previews: The House Trailer, Get Out, More!

Plenty to see in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including The House trailer, Get Out, Aftermath, and more…

The House Trailer

This new The House trailer depicts an unusual way for parents to pay for their child’s tuition fees. Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler are the parents who decide to operate an underground casino to ensure their daughter can go to university. The comedy is the directorial debut of screenwriter Andrew Jay Cohen (responsible for the scripts of Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates and others). The House is set for release in UK cinemas on 30th June 2017.

Kong: Skull Island Image

Here is anew image for the upcoming Kong: Skull Island. The film features a stellar cast that includes Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, and John C. Reilly. The film reimagines the origins of the mythic Kong. Kong: Skull Island launches on to UK screens on 9th March 2017.

Aftermath Trailer

Here is the trailer for thriller Aftermath. Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as a husband and father who hunts down the air traffic controller who he holds responsible for the crash that killed his family. The film also stars Scoot McNairy and Maggie Grace, and is produced by Darren Aronofsky. Aftermath will hit UK cinemas on 7th April 2017.

Catfight Trailer

Catfight is a comedy about two old college friends who meet again years later. When wealthy housewife Veronica and struggling artist Ashley clash, their rivalry lasts years. The film stars Anne Heche, Sandra Oh, and Alicia Silverstone. Catfight is out in cinemas and on VOD in 10th March 2017.

Get Out Poster

Get Out is a thriller about a black man who visits his white girlfriend’s family estate. Worried that her family don’t realise he is black, the reality is about to get much worse. The trailer can be viewed here. The film is written and directed by Jordan Peele, and stars Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams. Get Out hits UK screens on 17th March 2017.

Logan Clip

Above is footage of Laura, a new character from the upcoming Logan. It reveals a little more about the young character who seems to have the same condition as the title character. Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, and Dafne Keen. Logan is out in UK cinemas on 1st March 2017.

Life Poster

Life is a new sci-fi thriller about a group of scientists who discover a new life form is space. The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds. Directed by Daniel Espinosa, Life will be released in UK cinemas on 24th March 2017.

Everything Everything Trailer

This is the new trailer for Everything Everything, based on the best-selling novel of the same name. The film is about Maddy, a teenage girl with a condition that means she can’t leave her house, and her neighbour Olly who wants to be with her. Starring Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson, Everything Everything is coming to cinemas soon.

Gleason Trailer

Here is the trailer for documentary Gleason. The film is about Steve Gleason, an American football star who is diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) at the age of 34. The documentary is directed by Clay Tweel. Gleason is out in UK cinemas from 17th march 2017.

Film Review: Noah

Noah

Darren Aronofsky’s Noah is an aesthetically pleasing film, that works on a certain level. Overall, hover, it is not fully satisfying.

When he receives apocalyptic visions from The Creator, Noah knows he must act. With the help of his family, Noah begins on a quest to rescue the world’s animals before the floods come…

The idea of director Darren Aronofsky helming a biblical epic is a fascinating concept. From the trailers and clips, it was not clear whether Aronofsky would deliver a traditional retelling of the tale, or offer something more complex. The finished article falls somewhere between the two.

Noah seems to be reaching for something profound, but it never quite gets there. There is a great emphasis on Noah’s struggle, which works to a certain extent. It can be difficult to identify with a protagonist in a situation so far removed from any sense of reality. The film would perhaps have benefitted from subtle shadings in the character earlier on to make the later struggle as weighty as it could be.

The story feels padded out at times, as is necessary to fill the run time and embellish the biblical tale. Some of these aspects do not gel with the story that most will be familiar with. Although the film never claims to be realistic, it would have been nice to have a few of the elements explained.

Noah‘s commentary on humanity and choice is the most fascinating aspect of the film. There is certainly an allegorical element that most will recognise. It would have been more satisfying for Aronofsky to explore these themes further.

The cinematography in Noah is excellent. The time-lapse sequences in particular are superb. Special effects are great, and the sound is also an effective accompaniment. Russell Crowe delivers a competent performance in the title role. Jennifer Connelly is not given too much to do, while Emma Watson is decent. Ray Winstone is well cast as Tubal-cain.

As a cinematic retelling of the biblical tale, Noah is certainly successful. Those hoping that Aronofsky would weave through some innovation or variance, or that it would be provocative, may be disappointed with the end product.

Stuff To Look At

Plenty of cinematic treasure this week, with the new A Million Ways to Die in the West trailer, Noah, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and more…

A Million Ways to Die in the West

Warning: this A Million Ways to Die in the West trailer is red band. A Million Ways to Die in the West is the latest film from Seth MacFarlane, who also leads a cast that includes Charlize Theron and Liam Neeson. A Million Ways to Die in the West is set for release on 6th June 2014 in the UK.

Noah

This is the Superbowl TV spot for Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. It is an intriguing prospect; a director like Aronofsky doing a large-scale biblical epic. The story of Noah does not seem meaty enough for a feature film, so it plot must be fleshed out somehow. The mystery of the unicorns perhaps. Noah is released in UK cinemas on 4th April 2014.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Black Widow

This new character poster for Captain America: The Winter Soldier suggests Scarlet Johansson’s Black Widow has a prominent role to play in this Marvel sequel. Given her somewhat ambiguous nature in previous appearances, it will be interesting to see what director’s Anthony and Joe Russo do with her here. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is hits UK screens on 26th March 2014.

The LEGO Movie

I used to love Lego so I find The LEGO Movie appealing. From the above featurette, the film smartly does not seem to take itself seriously. With a host of star names and featuring Batman, I am hoping the film will be an amusing adventure. The LEGO Movie is released in cinemas on 14th February 2014.

A Long Way Down

An adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel, A Long Way Down offers a rather macabre premise made humorous. Starring Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette and Aaron Paul, A Long Way Down is out in UK cinemas on 21st March 2014.

Starred Up

Starred Up posterStarred Up is a new British drama starring Jack O’Connell and Rupert Friend. The film is about Eric, a troubled teenager transitioning from young offenders’ institute to prison. You can watch the trailer here. Starred Up is released on 21st March 2014.

Maleficent

This new trailer for Maleficent was released earlier this week, with Lana Del Ray’s rendition of ‘Once Upon a Dream’. Angelina Jolie was looks like she was made for the title role, in physical appearance at least. Maleficent looks like it will be quite dark, going back to its fairy tale roots. Maleficent hits UK cinemas on 30 May 2014.

The Invisible Woman

Here is a TV spot for the upcoming film The Invisible Woman. The story of Charles Dickens and his young lover Nelly, the film stars Ralph Fiennes (who also directs) and Felicity Jones. You can read my review here. The Invisible Woman is released nationwide in the UK on 21st February 2014.

Report: London Film Festival Press Conferences – Week 2

The King’s Speech

Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter and director Tom Hooper attended the press conference for The King’s Speech. Helena commented that she was unaware of the extent of George VI’s speech impediment before coming to the project. She suggests that the film shows a “fresh angle on a very famous period of history, for us, the abdication. The abdication came very close to a proper crisis in the monarchy. So the pressure on him and, and the personal crisis – that was totally new to me”.

Helena also joked that she took the part so she indulge in being the queen. She states; “I’ve played a few queens lately and they are really enjoyable. I just do queens”. Geoffrey remarked that; “I’ve always had an intriguing, fascinating obsession with the whole dynasty of British royalty back a millennia and a bit… The House of Windsor, which is still with us, for me is the first sort of reality TV show”.

Colin mentioned that he had to do a lot of the research, even though it was the third time he had played someone with a stammer. He explained: “As anyone who has experienced it would probably have been able to tell me, it’s not going to be the same for everybody, it won’t feel the same. What you’re going every time, of course is, what you’re really playing is not stammering. That’s really what you’ve got to worry about, because that’s what the person is going through”.

Read the I Heart The Talkies review of The King’s Speech

Black Swan

The Black Swan press conference was attended by director Darren Aranofsky, producer Scott Franklin and stars Mila Kunis and Vincent Cassel. Darren Aronofsky commented that it was difficult to penetrate the ballet world at the beginning of the project. He commented: “It took a very, very long time. And slowly but surely we met a few dancers that were interested in sharing their stories, and we did a lot of research”.

Darren explained that it was difficult to get parties interested in making Black Swan, despite his success with The Wrestler. “Because we had so little money” he states, “every single day was really difficult. There was never any easy days. Every day was like “Oh my gosh, we have to do all that today?””.

Vincent Cassel expressed that it was easy working with Natalie Portman. He explains; “She was very focused on the dancing, in a way – I have to say – that I was impressed with the amount of work that she put into the physical transformation”. Mila echoed these sentiments, saying Natalie was “fantastic to work with”.

Read the I Heart The Talkies review of Black Swan

Film Review: Black Swan

Psychological thriller Black Swan is an aural and visual feast. Despite the tension generated, the film is let down by the lack of depth, thematically speaking.

Ballet dancer Nina hopes to get the lead role in a new production of Swan Lake. She faces competition from new dancer Lilly, as well as the reservations of director Thomas. As she gets deeper into character, Nina starts to lose control…

Black Swan is at times a psychological thriller and at times a horror movie. Director Darren Aronofsky plays with audience perception; the state of Nina’s mind remains ambiguous, and we can never entirely trust what we are shown. Black Swan stops at this, however. There is no deeper exploration into Nina’s madness (real or perceived), and the overriding theme is simply the juxtaposing of opposites.

Black Swan is preoccupied with the idea of doubles. The production has the two versions of the swan; the white and black. Similarly, Nina and Lilly are rivals, but are incredibly similar in terms of looks. The primary focus of the film seems to be exhibiting striking contrast between light and dark, and what happens when these two adversaries collide.

Although this thematic preoccupation isn’t particularly groundbreaking, the film nevertheless is successful in generating a reaction from its audience. Black Swan is effective in provoking tension, and some of the graphic imagery can only be described as abject.

Aronofsky’s direction is flawless. Particularly striking is his use of hand-held camera in the dance scenes. Weaving through the dancers on stage, viewers are catapulted right into the action. The choreography is excellent, and coupled with the fluid camera the film parades a real sense of movement.

Black Swan promotes a highly stylised aesthetic. Some of the costumes are amazing, and the film exhibits a fantastic use of colour. For example, the dance rehearsal scenes are strikingly contrasted by the club scene; naturalistic colour and the emphasis on black and white are replaced by the vibrant flashing lights of the dance floor. Clint Mansell’s score combines well with the music from Swan Lake to accentuate the tension perfectly.

Natalie Portman gives a solid performance as Nina. Her disposition contrasts effectively with Mila Kunis’ Lilly. Vincent Cassel is well cast as Thomas, appearing sleazy but motivated in his work. Barbara Hershey is excellent as Nina’s controlling mother, while casting Winona Ryder as aging prima ballerina Beth was a stroke of genius.

Although the film looks and sounds fantastic, it is let down by a lack of sophistication in the narrative. Nevertheless, Black Swan is one of the most memorable films of the year.

Black Swan is being screened at the British Film Institute’s London Film Festival in October 2010.