Mother! (2017)

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Director: Darren Aronofsky

Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer

House Party From Hell

With just six feature films under his belt, Darren Aronofsky is still one of the most innovative and striking directors working in Hollywood today. With his unique visual style he creates intimate stories which have the power to grip you by the throat until the very last shot. ‘Black Swan’ is probably my favourite film of the last decade so you can imagine my delight at discovering that Darren had been secretly filming Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem in a horror film for God knows how many months. It was a shock well worthy of the cheeky exclamation mark pegged onto the title. It looked as though Darren had returned to his melodramatic roots after spending years working on a forgettable biblical epic.

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Although ‘Mother!’ also has biblical overtones, it’s perhaps less obvious than watching Noah’s ark rock around a stormy ocean. It is interesting to note, however the almighty split of opinions on Aronofsky’s latest work of art. People talk all the time about ‘marmite’ films, where critics and audiences alike seem to adore or outright detest a film for equally valid reasons and ‘Mother!’ is exactly that. Some find it tedious and ridiculous, whilst others find it gripping and intoxicating in the best possible way. I must admit that when I first saw the film, it completely went against my expectations and I was left sitting in a rare state of shock trying to process what I had just seen. Suffice to say that after about 10 minutes, my opinion landed directly on the ‘love it’ side of the fence.

The less you know about ‘Mother!’ the better the experience will be so I won’t delve into plot points. The biggest surprise for me was discovering how funny the film is. The trailers make it out to be like some sort of hardcore horror movie in the vein of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ meets ‘Repulsion’ but I was amazed to find myself laughing so much, particularly in the first half. The preposterousness of the situations make for darkly comic viewing in a similar kind of way to ‘Calvaire’ a Belgian horror film with equally pitch-black comedy. It could be mistaken for bad writing, but it’s entirely intentional. It all comes from the fact that J-Law’s character is presented as the only sane person who the audience can relate to, whereas pretty much every other character is totally unrelatable.

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The film builds slowly but always intrigues. Just like Natalie Portman’s Nina in ‘Black Swan’ J-Law’s titular ‘Mother!’ character is always shown in tight close-ups with the camera intensely following her every move. It makes for claustrophobic and uncomfortable viewing at times, particularly as the action never moves away from the house, which makes the insane third act work even more effectively for it. The point of view is also very subjective, it’s made clear that Jennifer isn’t quite right in the head and we see all her strange and horrifying delusions as if we were in her shoes. It’s fantastically focused filmmaking (nice bit of alliteration there for you) which helps to build up the intensity.

The first half might seem more than a bit weird to most moviegoers but it isn’t anything compared to the hysterical second half which has to contain some of the most insane sequences ever committed to film. I won’t go into details but I was left feeling incredibly stressed and bemused which is exactly how the film wants you to feel. Visually it’s astonishing and some of the camerawork is dizzyingly terrific. It also contains some seriously shocking content which left my mouth agape and I’m someone who considers themselves to be a hardened horror nut. It’s the kind of big budget surrealism which is devastatingly lacking in Hollywood.

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Of course none of it is supposed to be taken at face value and there are plenty of metaphors to chew over after the film has finished. It’s just a shame that Darren and Jennifer have been so open about what the film is actually about as it means that the sense of mystery has gone already. The film could’ve and should’ve been left up to interpretation. Directors such as David Lynch and Michael Haneke would never dream of telling audiences what their films are about because every audience member’s ideas are valid and have meaning to them. Anyhow, although the metaphors and symbolism are a little heavy-handed in the film, they are no less brilliant and intelligent.

It’s also worth mentioning the excellent performances in the film. Although that really doesn’t come as a surprise when you have heavyweights like Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem and Michelle Pfeiffer starring all in the same film. Each role is very challenging though and the fact that they all pulled each part off and made it believable is a credit to them. The real star of the show though is Darren Aronofsky whose directing style manages to unequivocally sweep audiences away on a mad, horrifying journey which isn’t soon forgotten. ‘Mother!’ is a very special film. It’s divisive but most great works of art are. You will get a strong reaction, no matter who you are or what that reaction might be.

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Twin Peaks: The Return

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Director: David Lynch

Stars: Kyle MacLachlan, David Lynch, Laura Dern, Naomi Watts

The greatest TV series of all time

It’s 11pm and I have just finished watching the last episode of Twin Peaks: The Return. Normally I’d give something else a watch before tottering off to bed but the images and ideas presented in the two-hour finale are relentlessly whirring around my head. David Lynch has done it again. 25 years ago he re-invented television with the original series which mixed offbeat comedy with pure horror and surrealism. Audiences were enthralled by the mystery of who killed Laura Palmer, only to find that the startling cliffhanger left in 1991 wouldn’t be resolved until 2017.

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David Lynch has had an exceptional career. Debuting with surrealist masterpiece, Eraserhead and providing us with horrific treats in Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart and Lost Highway. In 2002 he created what I believe to be the greatest film of all time, Mulholland Drive and seemingly disappeared off the Earth in 2006 after the impenetrable INLAND EMPIRE. However, we can now forgive Lynch for the frustrating ten-year hiatus because he has generously provided us with 18 hours of unadulterated perfection. The Return could very well be his magnum opus.

There has never been anything like this on TV and there will probably be nothing like this ever again, unless Lynch decides to delve back into the small screen again, of course. The series was shrouded in secrecy so people didn’t really have a clue what was going to happen when the two-hour opening aired. Unsurprisingly all expectations were cut dead within the first fifteen minutes. The whole season is nothing like the original run, in fact less than half the time is spent in the beloved town of Twin Peaks.

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This season is more interested in doppelgängers in Las Vegas, murders in South Dakota and frightening absurdities in the red room. Mysteries are constantly being raised and very few clear answers are ever provided. The series also runs at a very deliberate pace. Lynch really isn’t interested in wrapping things up quickly, in one scene we watch a man sweeping the floor for three minutes, yet somehow none of it is boring in the slightest. Instead we feel lost in an intoxicating dreamlike atmosphere where anything can happen. Many will find the lack of nostalgia and glacial pacing frustrating, but this is truly a ground-breaking work of art.

It also has to be noted that Kyle MacLachlan’s performance is the one of the greatest in TV history. It has to be said that he has never particularly shone in his acting career, aside from Dale Cooper (obviously) but here he does something extraordinary. Playing three different characters, MacLachlan shows an astonishing acting range and never fails to compel whenever he’s on screen. There are also memorable performances from Naomi Watts, Laura Dern and David Lynch himself, all in challenging and remarkably interesting roles.

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What’s really extraordinary about this 1000 minute masterpiece is that is manages to encompass every human emotion, often at the same time. At one moment side-splittingly funny, then pants-wettingly terrifying the next. There are also moments of desperate sadness, tension and surprise. What ever the feeling though, there is always a strong sense of mystery in the air. Don’t expect many easy answers though.

Many people were disappointed by the ending which offered absolutely no closure in the slightest. Much like the original series, the season ends on a extraordinarily haunting note. In fact, it could quite possibly be the most haunting ending of any film or TV show I have ever seen. Rather than providing answers, we’re left with even more questions than we had at the start but that’s where its brilliance lies. If Lynch gave us a cosy ending where all the pieces tied neatly together then we wouldn’t be talking about the series for years to come. There is so much to analyse and digest, fans will be picking this series apart until the end of days.

Unlike anything else on TV, Twin Peaks is always unpredictable. You can never guess what is going to happen next and although it isn’t easy to understand, it isn’t really supposed to be. This is an experience where you can leave your brain at the door and just go along for the sensational ride. Forget Breaking Bad. Forget Game of Thrones. Forget what ever you thought the best series on TV ever was. The greatest thing to ever grace the small screen is categorically and unquestionably, Twin Peaks: The Return.

perfect-10

Dunkirk (2017)

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Director: Christopher Nolan
Stars: Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, Cllian Murphy, Tom Hardy

How many times can Chris outdo himself?

Life can deal you such cruel hands. I am the biggest Christopher Nolan fan so I’ve been excitedly awaiting Dunkirk ever since it was announced three years ago. I’ve been avoiding every trailer and every clip in fear of needless spoilers and have been savouring every review since its release. Now, almost one month after its release I have finally been able to see it! If it was any old film then I would’ve seen it on the day of its release, however this is a Christopher Nolan movie which means that it has to be seen on the biggest screen possible to get the full effect.

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So I took a trip up to London to catch Dunkirk on the BFI Imax, the biggest screen in England and I can safely say that it was worth the wait. Dunkirk is quite possibly the greatest cinema experience I have ever had, or at least the best since Interstellar which created similar immersive intensity in IMAX. But even without the gargantuan screen and crystal clear sound, Christopher Nolan has created not just the greatest war film ever but one of the greatest films of any genre. It is truly a one of a kind film, breaking all kinds of war movie conventions and doing things that have never been attempted in any film before it. Extraordinarily, Nolan has outdone himself once again.

Dunkirk is the equivalent of a cinematic pressure-cooker. From the moment the film begins, it’s put on high heat and it barely lets up for its entire 100 minute running time. The opening scene is sensational. We watch as a tragically young soldier picks up a leaflet depicting how British troops are surrounded by Germans. There’s an instant atmosphere of dread and panic which only intensifies when the first bullet explodes out of nowhere. We’re used to guns firing all the time in films. This is the first time the sound of a bullet has sent shivers up my spine. The noise is so loud and so sharp that I found myself jolting in my seat and for the first time in a war film, feeling the same sense of fear the soldiers on screen are feeling.

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The weight of the situation really hits hard. The idea that these people could die at any moment feels Earth-shatteringly real. This is largely down to Christopher Nolan’s directing which tries to squeeze as much realness and tension as possible out of everything. Long takes are used as well as very few CGI effects. The images feel so real that you almost forget that you’re watching something that was staged. There’s a moment near the beginning when a German plane flies over the troops and the roar of the engine matched with the fear in the soldier’s faces and the over-powering dreadful score make it one of the most terrifying scenes I have ever seen on film. When the bombs hit, it’s utterly devastating.

Unlike most war films, there isn’t a conventional or linear plot. There is no main character or much dialogue at all, instead the film is more interested in capturing the entire event of the Dunkirk evacuation. The main focus is on a story which presents a week of soldiers trying to survive on Dunkirk but there is also a more talky story which sees Mark Rylance taking his little boat out to Dunkirk to pick up some stranded troops as well as an almost dialogue-free story where Tom Hardy (face-covered again) has a go at shooting down enemy planes. It could have been messy but in the hands of Nolan these stories are expertly weaved and executed to perfection.

Unsurprisingly many audiences haven’t quite taken to the film. Average moviegoers expecting an ordinary film with characters you can root for are going to be disappointed. Dunkirk is pure cinema and is something that cannot be described or put into words, it’s something you simply have to experience and feel. It’s the reason why I love films and why I go to the cinema, to be taken on a journey. This is why I’m a fan of directors like David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick whose works consistently provide an immersive escapism into another world. Dunkirk is exactly this. It’s a film which sweeps you along with it and completely immerses you in the world of the film.

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Whatever you look for in a film though, you can’t deny the technical mastery of Dunkirk. I mean no hyperbole when I say that Dunkirk features some of the most spectacular images I have ever seen in a film. Planes sweeping over oceans, thousands upon thousands of soldiers lining up on a dark beach, ships sinking and engulfing people in water. These are some of the most breath-taking and indelible visuals I have ever come across. However, there are also quieter moments which haunt my mind. An older soldier throwing himself into the ocean and a heart-breaking final montage which ends each story on a spine-tingling powerful note are just as spectacular as the monumental set-pieces.

Hans Zimmer also deserves a mention for providing yet again another remarkable score. Music always plays a big part in Nolan films, but in Dunkirk the music almost becomes another character. It’s often dark and brooding but also serves to ratchet up the tension with a constant ticking which adds to the nail-biting intensity. At times of relief though, it’s uplifting and gave me perhaps the biggest chills I’ve ever had whilst watching a movie.

Dunkirk is more than just a film; it’s a work of art. I can’t think of a more intense movie experience than this. By the time the film ended I felt shaken and adjusting to reality outside of the cinema was difficult. This is the first war film to actually drop you in the middle of the war. It’s definitely worth going to see on IMAX for the full experience, but it’s just as unmissable on your teeny weenie TV at home. Hopefully the Academy will now finally recognise Nolan for the incredible talent that he is after Interstellar was cruelly snubbed. Dunkirk is truly extraordinary.

perfect-10

 

7 Shockingly Unexpected Movie Deaths That Had Us Gasping In Disbelief

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psycho(WARNING: This article contains huge spoilers for each and every film, so if you haven’t seen it, get watching!)

There’s nothing I love more than when a film surprises you. Too often nowadays, films are full of clichés that enable you to predict their every move. They’re too scared to depart from the formula in case they upset the audience or (more often than not) the studio. Some films dare to be different though and rip up the rule book, leaving us all bemused. Below are seven of the most shocking death scenes in cinematic history. These are the scenes that made us jump out of our seat in shock.

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10 Scariest Horror Movie Masks Guaranteed To Give You Nightmares

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Horror movies over the years haven’t had their shortage of nightmare-inducing images. One of the most popular ideas is to have a murderous psychopath terrorizing an innocent while donning a super scary mask. It’s a popular idea because pretty much everyone can get creeped out by it! Let’s take a look back at some of the scariest masks we’ve seen on our screens.

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The 7 Greatest David Lynch Movies Not Directed By David

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David Lynch is a director so distinctive that his style has been given his own term: “Lynchian.” Urban dictionary has the word defined as “having the same balance between the macabre and the mundane,” but it could also be used to describe a film that’s surreal or dreamlike. And while no one makes movies quite like Lynch, there are a few that bear a striking resemblance.

Audiences might feel a little Lynched out at the moment with Twin Peaks gleefully hitting our screens again every week, but when that’s over you know you’re going to need something bizarre to keep you sane. Below you’ll find seven films that all resemble a Lynch movie in different ways.

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https://moviepilot.com/p/greatest-david-lynch-movies-not-directed-by-david-lynch/4319510

7 Vintage Horror Movies Every True Horror Fan Must See

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If you’re going to call yourself a horror fan, then you’ve got to embrace every decade that horror has to offer. Some films age like a fine wine; sometimes I pick up a ’30s horror film DVD, shake it around and hold it under my nose to smell the oaky freshness.

There are some people who refuse to watch a film if it’s in black-and-white, and I find this baffling. Colour isn’t the essential ingredient for a good film! The most important elements are a good plot, innovative directing and compelling acting.

The following classic horror films have all of those ingredients and more. They’ve stood the test of time and are essential viewing for any self-respecting film fanatic. There are at least 10 more I could’ve added, but I finally whittled it down to these diverse slices of golden age horror. These aren’t in any order, as all are equally worth seeing for one reason or another, so take my hand as I lead you down the pavement of horror history.

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https://moviepilot.com/p/best-vintage-horror-movies/4139457