Thaddeus Awotunde
The Silhouette

RoboCop
Director: José Padilha

The new RoboCop is sleeker and faster than the 1987 original, but it’s not even nearly as effective.

Where the original was a multilayered satire infused with over-the-top action, intense gore, and pitch black humour, this one is mostly a modern day action film with a few jabs at post 9/11 American foreign policy.

In this version, Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is a clean cop who ends up in a fatal accident planned by corrupt cops in cahoots with an arms dealer. OmniCorp is being run by Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), a Steve Jobsesque CEO who funds the creation of RoboCop as a sort of PR stunt to put a human face behind the robot enforcers to convince Americans that robots patrolling their ground is a good idea.

What follows is pretty straightforward. RoboCop has to deal with the desire to remain human and be connected to his family, Dr. Norton (Gary Oldman) deals with the moral implications of manipulating life that is still partially organic, and Samuel L. Jackson puts on a Fox News host impression.

Everything is just alright. The action is all familiar and not too different from any other mid-tier blockbuster or big budget videogame. Though the violence is fairly tame, and RoboCop is only allowed to carry a taser. Most of the dialogue is middling, without much wit, profundity, or nastiness (especially compared to the original).Where the original had memorable villains such as vicious crime lord Clarence Boddiker and ruthless businessman Dick Jones, this one was lacking. The criminal in charge of RoboCop’s demise barely had any screen time or dialogue of note – he’s underwhelming overall. The most notable image of this film is seeing the remains of Alex Murphy when not in his suit.

A fun aside is the fact that this was filmed in Hamilton and it’s possible to spot a few Hamilton locations in the film.
Like another modernized Verhoeven remake Total Recall, this one didn’t seem to do too well in the box office, which means that there may be no more sequels.

All that being said, the film is still better than what I had anticipated. Even though I feel it was an unnecessary remake, it is a welcome addition to a series of films that had fallen so far down that it was barely functional. It took a dip in quality when RoboCop 2 came out, and RoboCop 3 was the point of no return. They transformed a series that prided itself on gritty crime violence and comedic social criticism to something that simply aspired to sell toys to elementary school students.

And then of course there was the made for TV Canadian Miniseries RoboCop Prime Directives – the less that gets said about that one, the better.

In the end, the new RoboCop gets a pass just because the bar had been set so low by everything that followed Paul Verhoeven’s side-splitting classic.

3/5

Cooper Long
Assistant ANDY Editor

The Counselor
Director: Ridley Scott

I first grew concerned on Wednesday. The Counselor was only a couple days from wide release and not a single professional review had surfaced online.

Studios regularly forgo critics’ screenings or embargo reviews for their least-promising films in order to prevent bad word of mouth. Yet, this hush-hush treatment did not seem apt for a project with so much high-profile talent on both sides of the camera.

How bad could any film directed by Ridley Scott, written by Cormac McCarthy, and starring Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Pénelope Cruz, and Cameron Diaz possibly be?

To quote Pitt’s character, “I’d say pretty bad. And then multiply it by 10.” The studio was probably right to try and cover up this plodding, suspenseless story about a botched drug deal that threatens an unnamed lawyer (Fassbender) and his criminal associates, played by Bardem and Pitt. Cruz has little more than a cameo role as the counselor’s guileless wife. Meanwhile, Diaz plays a villainess who does things to a sports car that give new meaning to the word “autoerotic.”

If a Cormac McCarthy-derived crime thriller set in the American southwest and starring Javier Bardem on a bad hair day seems familiar, it should. These were also ingredients of No Country for Old Men (2007), the Coen Brothers’ riveting adaptation of the McCarthy novel of the same name.

Unfortunately for The Counselor, comparisons to that Best Picture-winner are both unavoidable and unflattering.

The dialogue in No Country for Old Men often had a philosophical bent, but McCarthy’s script for The Counselor takes this literary language to the extreme. Profundities like “I believe truth has no temperature” are swapped over cocktails. Similar to the desert vistas onscreen, such dialogue is grand, but ultimately empty.

Fassbender’s counselor is also a disappointing substitute for Llewellyn Moss, the ordinary Texan in No Country for Old Men who became similarly mixed-up with drugs and deviants. While Moss was resourceful and tenacious, the counselor is much less active, and consequently less compelling.

Early in the film, Fassbender’s character is warned that he will “eventually come to moral decisions that will take [him] completely by surprise.” Yet, this premonition goes unfulfilled. After agreeing to the initial ill-fated drug deal, Fassbender’s character takes little – if any – decisive action. For a counselor, he sure spends a lot of the movie desperately calling others for advice.

Perhaps the counselor’s frustrating passivity is some kind of comment on the helplessness of mankind in the face of implacable evil. Other parts of the film seem to speak to this same theme. A tanker full of drugs rumbles north throughout the movie, for example, while drug cartels use a weapon that slowly constricts an unbreakable wire loop. Yet, these ideas and images don’t come together in an intelligible way.

The film’s most resonant moments occur near its end, when violence spills into the posh streets of London. As business-suited onlookers watch the blood spray, Scott provocatively juxtaposes sophistication and brutality. The shock and surprise of the London crowd also makes for an interesting counterpoint to earlier scenes in Ciudad Juárez, where the counselor wanders into a demonstration against rampant killings.

Nevertheless, The Counselor demonstrates Ridley Scott’s frustrating inconsistency as a filmmaker. He secured his reputation with the science-fiction landmarks Alien (1979) and Blade Runner (1982) and he has helmed several other large-scale blockbusters since. Indeed, Scott is so successful that he seemingly has his pick of actors and projects. Yet, his films frequently feel like less than the sum of their promising parts. Like The Counselor, Scott’s previous two canadian pharm offerings, Robin Hood (2010) and Prometheus (2012), also used megawatt stars and noteworthy source material to mostly middling effect.

The plot of The Counselor seems to suggest that no matter how thoroughly one may plan, catastrophe can still catch up with a person once certain mistakes are made. The movie itself illustrates the same principle. Despite the best intentions of all the talented people in the credits, I have to diagnose The Counselor a mess.

Alex Sallas
The Silhouette

Rush is a nicely paced and well-acted racing film that's more about the characters than the cars. Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl star as Englishman James Hunt and Austrian Niki Lauda, both Formula One drivers and both at the top of their game. The similarities end there, though. Hunt is a ladies' man – brash, fond of alcohol and partying, while Lauda is reserved – obsessed with technicalities and every detail of his car. Of course, a huge rivalry develops between these two men, diametric opposites in terms of personality and attitude, but both sharing a love for the track.

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The racing scenes in Rush are very well done and appropriately thrilling, but its the characters to which the film devotes much of its time, and rightfully so. Both leads put in great work, while the supporting cast, featuring Olivia Wilde and Alexandra Marie Lara, do the same. The visual effects are very good, especially in one scene involving the draining of lung fluid, and Ron Howard directs the film skillfully, getting a lot out of his actors and filling the film with a nice variety of camera angles and shots.

Rush never drags but I would have liked to see a few of the aforementioned supporting characters developed a little more. Some of the earlier race scenes could have been trimmed a little to make room for this. All in all, while Rush may not be a perfect film, it is still a very, very good one.

4/5

I remember watching Before Sunrise for the first time when I was eleven years old. I went to the public library with my parents and picked up the DVD from the film section and watched it that same evening. I think my fundamental faith in true love may have originated from that experience.

The film is about Jesse, a romantic American boy who meets Celine, a fiery French girl during a train ride to Vienna. Jesse invites her to wander the streets of Vienna with him until he catches his plane back home the next morning. The film is little more than a twelve-hour long conversation between them. They talk about love, sex, feminism, family, their hopes, their dreams, and their fears. They resolve themselves to the fact that they will never see one another again, but when they part ways in the morning, they ultimately decide to meet again. They say that in six months they will both return to that exact train station, in that exact spot. They pull apart from a passionate, despaired embrace, as Celine steps on her train and the film ends.

In the second installment, Before Sunset, we learn that Jesse and Celine could never reconnect. Jesse returns to their meeting spot six months later as planned, but Celine is unable to because of her grandmother’s death. Nine years have passed and Jesse has written a very successful novel, largely inspired by his encounter with Celine. He has a book reading in Paris, in Shakespeare & Co., and Celine attends. Again, they only have a few hours before Jesse’s flight home, at sunset. We learn that Jesse is married and has a son and Celine is also in a committed relationship. Their conversations continue, and the film ends with a contemplative Jesse in Celine’s apartment, twirling his wedding ring.

Another nine years have passed; they’ve married, and have two twin girls. They are on a family vacation in Greece, and again the film is mostly their spirited, animated, but now nostalgic and sometimes regretful conversations. I feel certain that I will be able to understand these characters in new and wonderful ways when I turn forty, and I sincerely look forward to that moment. But for now, I can still find their dialogue refreshing, stimulating, sometimes poetic, and often hilarious. Their relationship is not as rosy as I had wished, but it continues to be charming and honest. And the film’s scenery has me lusting after the banks of the Greek islands. Celine, though more resentful and with a latent rage towards her husband, is as clever and graceful as ever. And Jesse, though more infuriating and confusing, is still the same bright-eyed romantic.

In a cinematic realm where 3D films, special effects, dramatic storylines and gimmicky ideas are the norm, Before Midnight is a difficult endeavor. The story of Celine and Jesse is more or less a six-hour long unbroken take of an ordinary conversation between two ordinary people. Their words are intelligent, but accessible. Their love story is romantic, but their relationship is relatable. The characters are beautiful and talented, but their longings are universal. I have been invested in Celine and Jesse for ten years, and the first two films were so flawless that I wasn’t sure if they should even be touched by a third film. But I can only hope that in nine years there will be another.

The Hunger Games
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Stanley Tucci
Directed by: Gary Ross

3 out of 5

Myles Herod
Entertainment Editor

Sourced from a series of popular teen-lit novels by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games could have easily succumbed to the wretched excess and brain-dead nothingness of the Twilight franchise.

Fortunately, at about 20 minutes in, director Gary Ross’ adaptation makes it clear that consideration was procured for its cinematic crossover, affording depth rather than the expense of a cashed-in afterthought.

Stretched across a two and a half hour span, the film’s alternative universe begins in District 12, a rural, working-poor slum that Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) calls home.

Consciously or not, the texture and dankness of the backwater setting echoes Lawrence’s Oscar nominated role in Winter’s Bone, complete with shaky cam, bedraggled locales and the image of Katniss mothering her younger sister Prim (Willow Shields) in the surrounding decay.

Despite some significant ho-hum clichés of Hollywood’s ubiquitous grasp, the sense that director Ross has a lean vision for his fantastical setting (fastened in real-world plight) makes for a credible thrust of high-concept duality between entertainment and creativity.

With most of North America obliterated, the land of Panem still remains, governed by an opulent totalitarian regime situated in the “Capitol.”

Every year, the “powers that be” (headed by a sinister, and always superb, Donald Sutherland) summon one boy and girl from each of the 12 districts to compete as “tributes” in a gladiatorial clash of death.

When young Prim’s name is called to lead, Katniss nobly takes her place, partnered with the male tribute, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), a physically fit but weak-willed bread-boy, seemingly naive for survival.

Relying on her archer instincts and the mentorship of a drunken former Hunger Games victor, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson sporting a blonde, Kurt Cobain wig), Katniss is literally throw into a war-torn hell where fate and fatality tango.

When stripped from its phenomenal popularity, The Hunger Games basically boils down to familiar storytelling. Apart from the obvious comparison to Kinji Fukasaku’s bloodsoaked cult piece Battle Royale, one can point out borrowings from the lovable ‘80s cheese of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Running Man, Peter Weir’s prophetic The Truman Show, and even scrapings of Goosebumps, a televised teenage horror program of the 1990s.

It helps that both Ross and author Suzanne Collins penned the screenplay together. The content is thematically dark, and its allegorical elements are finely executed, highlighting the way in which the televised ‘games’ critique today’s obsession with reality entertainment.

The depicted on-air bloodbath represents the Capitol’s twisted idea of cultural normality, disturbingly serving as a timely and effective parable of today’s perverse couch potato comfort.

Oddly, my favourite parts of the film have nothing to do with its carnage or combat, but rather Philip Messina’s production design. Impressive in creating bold set-pieces and corrupt decadence, The Hunger Games’ off kilter look comes personified in Stanley Tucci’s role as Panem’s televised host, Cesar Flickerman.

Channeling the Joker and a pill popping Jay Leno, he interviews each challenger before battle, embodying the film’s eccentric style in an arena akin to American Idol.

Like any movie of this magnitude, there are portions to nit-pick. The climax is forced, and the life-saving plot devices are contrived, but it’s tolerable because Ross commendably pushes the film as far as it can go.

While it’s not art, there’s something encouraging about a well-executed adaptation of pop fiction that plays to the fans as well as the uninitiated.

 

 

Chronicle
Directed by: Josh Trank
Starring: Michael B. Jordon

3 out of 4 stars

Marco Filice

Chronicle made me love the found footage genre a lot more.

Using the superhero mythos as its setting, the subjectivity of the hand held camera adds an intriguing feature to moviegoers looking for fantastical escape.

Many scenes offer such experiences, the notable one being three teenagers flying through the clouds. It all seems like an intense lucid dream, one that we’d never want to wake from because of the erotic pleasure of possessing indescribable power.

One might say that redundant clichés are in the mix. The story revolves around Andrew, an introverted and troubled teenager with a troubled home life, as he lives in fear of his abusive father. The worries don’t stop there: at high school he is bullied and eats lunch by himself on the bleachers. What little connection he has with humanity is with his dying mother, who Andrew cherishes, his cousin Matt, popular and willing to pull Andrew out of his shell, and Steve, the student council candidate who takes a sympathetic liking to him.

Surprisingly, these reused elements make for a refreshing concept. The plot kicks off with Andrew deciding to document his life through video. He doesn’t explain why, but it seems to come from an inner need to communicate.

In today’s age of information, the lens and screen are the most popular means to record and review our lives. But where the average Tweeter or YouTube uploader does it for networking, Andrew is attempting to fulfill suppressed needs. As the film plays out, the audience sees, through the camera lens, the potential horror of such angst.

Andrew, Matt and Steve discover an unknown relic underground. It disorients them. The story cuts to a different time, and there is mystery to the events in between. The next part of the film sees these newborn prodigies flexing their psychokinetic muscles and features them pulling particularly amusing antics in a toy store.

Things start getting complicated, however, after an accident hurts someone. They put their powers in perspective and come up with rules, a philosophical necessity for beings aware of personal power.

From here, the film transitions from comic entertainment to an ethical thought experiment. Matt and Steve give Andrew the opportunity to make friends, only to do wrong by him. His fears torment him again, and he starts to justify abusing his powers with Darwin’s “apex predator.”

The term claims the strongest species in an ecosystem will, by natural right, dominate its environment. As tragedy unfolds, Chronicle is a prime example of misconstrued theories gone awry.

My favourite thing about this film is the use of cameras, and what it means for an event to be a “chronicle” today. Throughout the film, Andrew changes the genre by levitating his own camera to record himself in action. The subjective recorder becomes one and the same as the objective observer, and makes for a really uniquely engaging experience.

The final act of the movie is dark, and shows Andrew out in public with his rage. His fascination to document himself is extrapolated into the camera phones of witnessing bystanders: he pulls in as many different perspectives as he can get to watch him at his monstrous peak.

By becoming the god of his own chronicle, Andrew only proves that clinging to the past will only return to stab you in the back.

Nolan Matthews

The Grey 

Starring: Liam Neeson

Directed by: Joe Carnahan

The Grey is a movie about survival, and its got most of the stuff that we’ve become used to seeing in survival films.

There’s a plane crash, a remote and inhospitable location, and an unlikely group of survivors, but I guess faulting The Grey for having the characteristics of its genre is like criticizing a science fiction movie for taking place in space.

In any case, it’s hard to shake the feeling that so much of The Grey feels familiar, but there are wolves, so at least that’s something new.

A plane crash happens early on in The Grey, and the scene is actually the movie at its most affecting. The crash is disorienting, intensely physical and entirely gripping, but the rest of The Grey is unable to maintain the same level of exhilaration, and the movie becomes hopelessly bleak.

The only moments of relief are quickly interrupted by the arrival of the human-killing, computer-generated wolves.

Liam Neeson, playing the main character Ottway, is a hired gunman who works in Alaska to protect local oil workers from wolf attacks.

After the plane crash, the oil workers make up the surviving crew of seven, but they don’t go much beyond the archetypes of the family man, abrasive nihilist, or soft-spoken intellectual.

The crew is only kind of likeable, and so I could only kind of care about them. Even when the film gives some illumination into a character’s past, they tend to die shortly after, so greater character depth comes with the price of predictability.

With the crew being underwhelming, the responsibility then falls to Liam Neeson, who actually does a pretty good job.

While The Grey dulls some of the typical Liam Neeson magic, he gives a passionate performance that can be captivating, at least before both he and the film fall into melodrama towards the end.

Though trailers for The Grey might’ve given the impression that the film is action-packed, it isn’t the mindless guilty pleasure that the trailers hinted it could be.

Instead, we’re left with a film that mostly focuses on the feelings of helplessness of the survivors, and the wolves are not so much an excuse for an action sequence but an embodiment of pure paranoia.

In aiming for big emotions, The Grey succeeds, but the movie has an almost complete lack of subtlety.

Still, the extreme hardships presented to the characters make it hard not to feel drawn into their fate, though the film isn’t really interesting enough to give its dramatic messages about questioning the purpose of life, and the importance of fighting for that life, much weight.

By the end of the movie, its unrelentingly miserable tone becomes a struggle to get through, and instead of giving the plight of these characters extra weight, it just feels like a bit much.

All of the emotion of the film reaches its peak in the final moments, and it’s in the ending where The Grey throws its first surprise.

The ending is quite possibly totally unsatisfying, but it’s also thought provoking, and it’s too bad the film didn’t take more chances like it.

Despite being about the fight for survival, The Grey ends up feeling a bit lifeless.

 

Myles Herod,

Entertainment Editor

 

The Muppets

Directed by: James Bobin

Starring: Jason Segel, Amy Adams

We all know the Muppets.  They may not be as ubiquitous and popular as they once were, but their infectious mixture of slapstick, strangeness, satire, and singing is familiar to generations alike.  In their newest incarnation, director James Bobin and co-writers Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel (the latter of whom also co-stars) have never forgotten what made Jim Henson‘s creations so special.

Although the title is sadly bland, the contents gush with color, energy, music and enough soft-edged parody to remind longtime fans that the Muppets always winked through their smiles.

Jason Segel plays Gary, a grown child whose beloved brother, Walter, happens to be a Muppet (something the film wisely leaves unanswered). With Gary’s long-suffering girlfriend, Mary (Amy Adams), in tow, they visit the Muppets’ old theater in Los Angeles, only to find its depleted remains set for demolition by a real-estate tycoon (Chris Cooper) in order to drill for oil.

It is soon up to Walter, Gary, and Mary to bring the Muppets back together so they can stage a telethon and raise the $10 million to save the studio.

Utilizing the 'getting-the-gang back together' plot to great effect, the film cleverly appeals to two audiences: the young kids who probably will only recognize Muppets from Sesame Street, and the adults who remember the TV series and movies from yesteryear.

The first half plays as set-up, bringing everyone back together and showing how most of the Muppets have turned their backs on fame Fozzie is now performing in Reno with “The Moopets,” Gonzo is a plumbing magnate, Animal is in anger management, and Kermit lives alone in his Los Angeles mansion – quietly yearning for a reconciliation with his old gang, and the love of Miss Piggy.

Again, the film is smart, providing an introduction/re-introduction of the characters to a new audience while providing plenty of in-jokes and references that will remind older fans of the nostalgic Muppet magic.

The old chestnut of a plot is balanced lovingly by loads of self-referential humor that has long been a Muppet mainstay — as when Kermit first declines the challenge, and Mary decries, “Oh no, this is going to be a really short movie.”

With all its fun and irreverent humour, The Muppets is not a perfect return to the big screen. Walter is a bit of a washout next to his fellow puppets, and Adams is mostly wasted in a supportive role. Segel, meanwhile, remains a ball of exuberance (both as co-writer and actor), declaring his chops in a show stopping ballad called ‘Man or Muppet’, which see’s Walter and he recognize their true destinies.

It isn’t till the second half that parts start to drag. Strangely, it feels that when the energy should be exploding, the characters are overwrought with concerns.

Will Gary feel abandoned if Walter leaves him for the Muppets? Will Mary leave Gary because he forgot their anniversary? Can Walter overcome his stage fright and perform on the big show?

It’s all too much to contemplate when we want jokes and songs and just the right sprinkling of sentiment.

In Muppet tradition, several musical numbers pop up frequently, as do human guest spots (even though one would have expected more). Although old favorites — such as the TV theme song and Rainbow Connection — are welcome reprises, some of the newer numbers get lost in the breakneck shuffle.

Still, with a healthy nostalgia factor mixed in, The Muppets may find parents having more fun than their youngsters at this lighthearted affair. It truly is a treat to see hand-held puppets hopping across the big screen opposed to an army of computer-animated stand-ins. That, and it's great to see Kermit again. What a charming frog.

 

 

Marco Filice

J. Edgar

Directed by: Clint Eastwood

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio

A heavy-set mood will discomfort the viewers of Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar. Portraying the broken memories of an aged John Edgar Hoover, Dustin Lance Black’s screenplay flows with guilt-ridden narratives. As the plot transitions mercilessly between time frames with little warning, this quality of a senior in regret makes the film a psychological character study of the passed Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Leonardo DiCaprio’s convincing role as Hoover edifies this troubling persona. And, to be honest, relaying the story to you is just as troubling. Yet this is what makes J. Edgar a good movie.

By witnessing the major sequences of his life as they spring to his mind, the audience learns about J. Edgar only as he wants you to know him. It begins when Hoover was just a young man and an attempt is made on the life of his boss, Mitchell Palmer. Tom Stern’s beautiful yet daunting cinematography of Washington D.C.’s evening landscape reminds the audience of current global issues as the city burns under multiple terrorist attacks.

Indeed, just as this terror is set in the background at the movie’s outset, the image impresses itself in the back of our minds throughout the film’s duration. And no matter how unethical Hoover’s tactics show to be, we can’t help but agree with him. As such, his arguments against his opponents stress one unnerving fact: that war can, at any time, hit home.

Many of the memory scenes recount Hoover’s triumphant cases. There is an ongoing narrative concerning the political kidnapping of a wealthy aviator’s infant son. Hoover is diligent to remind his peers that the federal government must up the ante on its crime fighting strategy. As this particular case pans out tragically, Hoover’s message gloats an unfortunate reality. Toward the conclusion, Eastwood choreographs a beautiful montage sequence of Hoover’s psyche: “when morals decline, and good men do nothing, evil flourishes.” Case after case, Hoover proves to be not only ruthless against crime, but a social visionary.

Although he is steadfast against crime, Hoover is no hero. He is impatient, jealous when others are credited and even willing to taint the news. A famous example is the hunt and killing of John Dillinger. Hearing about Melvin Purvis’ success, Hoover is indignant and orders that the honoured agent be terminated from the FBI, so to take the credit himself. In the end, Hoover had taken truth as a commodity to exploit and promoted justice in the FBI synonymously with his own name.

DiCaprio transcends drama and moves into the territory of the educational. His depiction is simply convincing as the Director of the FBI. He is handsome, yet awkward. He demands respect, yet is vulnerable to ridicule. His role makes it clear to the audience that talking about Hoover is as problematic as the man himself. Such is the reason that describing the film’s plot is as relevant as analyzing DiCaprio’s performance.

Embodying Hoover’s dispersed memories, DiCaprio does history a service by acting against the his egoistic and deluded intent: Hoover was no hero, but a flawed, yet passionate, human being. I judge the film to be the same.

 

 

Melancholia
Starring: Kirsten Dunst
Directed by: Lars von Trier

2 out of 5 stars

Myles Herod
Entertainment Editor

Behind the seismic mess that is Melancholia, there is an unquestionable talent at work. Danish director Lars von Trier has exhibited the prowess of a full-fledged artist before, and certainly will again. Just consider 1996’s Breaking the Waves as proof.

Alas, his work is also one of pedantic blemishes, full of undue emphasis and laborious design.

The eccentricities of von Trier – who was infamously ousted from this year’s Cannes festival for comparing himself to Hitler – are as evident as ever.

In terms of nihilistic themes and satirical art-house attributes, Melancholia is a worthy successor to the controversial indulgences of 2009’s Antichrist.

Both films begin with shamelessly pretentious prologues that drip with slow-motion photography and classical overtures. From there, however, von Trier leads us down a very long and thorny terrace of tedium, one that details a wedding and a funeral – for the entire planet.

Presumably filmed in Denmark, and set in a weirdly stateless, featureless location, the film is split into two chapters, each named after a sister from whom the story is told.

The first showcases Justine (Kirsten Dunst), a manic depressive, whose wedding has been expensively arranged by her long-suffering sibling, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and astronomer brother-in-law, John (Kiefer Sutherland).

Dunst’s role owns the first half, which plays out against her lavish wedding reception at John and Claire’s opulent estate.

However, what should be a regal celebration quickly dissolves into a nightmare for the bride, whose fragile emotions find her disappearing to take a bath and have anonymous sex on a residing golf course.

Nearly an hour and half of this plays directly into von Trier’s surreal mind and jittery camerawork, as he presents us with the definition of family dysfunction.

Eventually, as the catastrophe of Justine’s wedding conquers her, aspects of Melancholia become inexplicably nonsensical. For example, consider the scene where Justine’s husband abruptly abandons her and question if it makes sense.

Confoundingly, it is one of the film’s many clunky plot cruxes that we are simply forced to accept through its three-hour duration.

In the ensuing days afterwards, Part II kicks in, with focus shifting to Claire, whose calm, mothering presence begins to erode under the apocalyptic collision of earth and a planet named Melancholia.

Although the awkward arrival of the new, blue world is touched upon in the prologue and first section, it becomes a reality in the film’s second half.

The setting remains the same, finding Claire and John living with a nearly catatonic Justine.

Oddly enough, as Melancholia’s trajectory threatens mankind, it is Claire and John who become dejected wrecks, finding Justine springing back to consciousness – at one point even lying naked under the foreign blue glow as earth approaches meltdown.

While Melancholia might be seen as an antidote to director Terrence Malick’s equally epic The Tree Of Life, in which the director appointed his characters to submit to a celestial order, this film neither reaches Malick’s beauty or mystery.

Instead, Melancholia settles as an idiosyncratic misstep at science fiction.

If only Lars von Trier took into account that audiences might actually want to enjoy Melancholia, rather than endure it (or sift through it), he might have been onto something great.

 

 

 

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