Enter The Void: follows the final hours, afterlife, and reincarnation of a low-level drug pusher in neon-drenched Tokyo. If you’re unfamiliar with Gaspar Noe, you’ll learn pretty quickly that his film’s aren’t merely ‘movies’ or ‘stories’, but full-on immersive experiences – unique, ambitious, and experimental. The first, and second, minutes feel like 12-rounds with Tyson – click to see for yourself. if you can’t handle that, don’t go anywhere near Enter The Void. Everything ‘Noe’ is in here – long takes, disorienting audio and visuals, brutal and challenging scenes & stories, non-linear storytelling; not to mention explicit / sensational / controversial subject matter. Halfway through the runtime we get a recap of the beginning, and from then on the film seems to lose its way – filling the time with elongated CGI trips and floaty filler, overstaying its welcome, and pushing the viewers further and further from the story, until the final ten minutes, which is just gratuitous shagging, blowjobs, and cunni for no real reason (it did explain why I could only get this as a German import – classic Germany), topping out with a POV (Point-of-Vagina!) money shot. I don’t say this often, but there were waaaaay more nudity than required in this!! Technically it’s jaw-dropping and mind-boggling: the camera glides in / through / over any objects so fluidly – yet these astonishing feats are countered by overlong sequences of trippy, psychedelic, CGI visuals – one thing’s for sure, there’s no faulting Noe’s commitment to his vision. At just under three hours, this is simply far too long – there’s a stunning 80-100 minute film in here. Enter The Void is both immersive and repulsive: a well-realised idea, centred around an average story, with a divisive final hour, and trainwreck final 10 minutes… all told through an exciting, cinematic, and truly unique out-of-body experience that no other director would even dare to take on. I’m split right down the middle.
Inside Llewyin Davis: follows a struggling musician for one week in the 1960s New York folk music scene. This film drags. This film is boring. Nothing significant happens. The Main guy is a total ass-hat (stubborn, unlikeable). There’s around 35 minutes of full-song renditions – it’s like a huge folk-music shaped penis being rammed down your throat (and into your ears) around every 10 minutes. Some sections just didn’t know when to end – like the trip to Chicago; it feels like you are in the car with them, but for all the wrong reasons. There are a couple of jokes sympathetically flicked at you every 20 minutes or so to keep you interested, but they’re too few and far between. The only saving grace is that Oscar Isaac (literally comes out of nowhere) and puts every fiber of his lifeforce into the role, and you totally believe he’s there, slogging it out, blaming everyone else and living a groundhog week. From around 30 minutes in I felt like the cat in the movie’ trapped with a douchebag and looking to throw myself through a window at the first opportunity. My final line in the A Serious Man review was: “Very difficult to watch, unless you’re a diehard Coen fan or were Jewish in the 1960s.” – and I’m going to be a lazy toad and change that to “Very difficult to watch, unless you’re a diehard Coen fan or love 1960s folk music.” Talk about niche movies…
Prometheus: a team of crack scientists travel to a distant planet to discover humanity’s beginnings, however, what they find could finish us all off! The opening aerial shots of breathetaking, sweeping landscapes are geography porn, it’s so beautiful that it’s worth the entrance fee alone. The rest of the film looks just as great, with sumptuous visuals, well-designed costumes & sets, and totally seamless impressive CGI. To match this, the acting roster’s impressive, although it’s absolutely owned by Fassbender‘s portrayal of David the android; he’s efficient, calculating, and believably robotic – surprisingly, he’s also by far the most interesting character, and the film’s biggest driving force. Charlize Theron’s role disappointingly amounts to nothing more than “hottie in a cat suit”. Frustraitingly, the film spends most of the runtime raising, contemplating and flirting with massive questions & themes – religion, evolution, why are we here, meeting our makers… – It’s just a shame that it spends next to no time resolving or answering any. As for being an Alien prequel, it feels intentionally distanced, with not much more than a fleeting post-script that is clunkily added-on. All in, I think Ridley’s hoping that the big loud grand spectacle will serve as a distraction from the fact that the story is neither strong, nor particularly original – which is epitomised best in Fassbender’s time in the fancy, flashy galaxy simulator thingmy-bob.
Black Christmas: [Mild spoiler] a sorority house plagued by abusive phone calls starts losing housemates at a rapid rate, but who is the killer!? Widely considered to be the first ‘slasher’ film, it contains everything we now take for granted in the genre – deranged serial killer with an aversion to young folk (always played by significantly older folk), meticulous stalking, savage attacks, all held together with of blood, terror and tension. This is one of the more technically superior horrors I can remember seeing; the first-person camera stalking is extremely impressive – especially given the size of old equipment – it’s cleverly shot, creepy sounding, well mixed, and remains convincingly festive. This still looks great for a 35 year old low-budget horror – if you can ignore 70s fashion. The high-quality means that a proper atmosphere is built-up, and it becomes genuinely creepy in parts. It’s also ahead of the curve with gratuitously foul language, which stands out more than the gore you see. On the down side, there are some major pacing issues with several sections of boring non-story, non action filler. Most disappointingly, there’s no reveal of the killer, motives or even a face – definitely missed a trick, leaving a bitter, unsatisfying taste. Black Christmas is a good B-movie, better than most of the stuff that’s churned out en masse these days – even after decades of imitation. It’s unfortunate that what would have been so fresh and shocking back in the day is now more interesting for everything behind and off camera – and how it was once innovative, unique, interesting, and bold enough to kickstart a genre.
Ides of March: a brief glimpse behind the cameras and curtains of American politics as an idealist media mogul and presidential candidate get dragged through the dirt on a campaign trail. This has a serious political-thriller script and so many (old and new) big actors involved – which is why it’s unfortunately one of the dampest squibs of the year. The plot is strong, and a good insight into modern politics and politicians… but they’re somewhat of an easy target these days. There’s some great acting on display… but you’re still left wanting more screen time from the likes of Hoffman, Giamatti and Clooney. The direction’s good… but it’s nowhere near as slick or smart as direction of a political film needs to be. With all of these ‘buts’ The Ides of March is definitely weaker than it should be – sorely missing that additional thump that makes good films great, and political stories engaging.