Mandy (2018) Review

Mandy (2018)

Directed by Panos Cosmatos

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Ned Dennehy, Olwen Fouéré, Richard Brake, Bill Duke

Music by Jóhann Jóhannsson

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
The enchanted lives of a couple in a secluded forest are brutally shattered by a nightmarish hippie cult and their demon-biker henchmen, propelling a man into a spiraling, surreal rampage of vengeance.

My Opinion:

I don’t know how to go about reviewing this film. Mandy isn’t even the weirdest film I’ve seen: I watch loads of weird shit so this was actually fairly tame. But I can usually think of other movies to compare a film to so that I can give you a better idea of what sort of thing to expect if you watch it. I don’t know what can be compared to this one. Maybe some Lars von Trier (mostly Melancholia)? I definitely thought of Heavy Metal & Hellraiser a few times. I didn’t get a David Lynch vibe from this – Mandy is weird in a completely different sort of way (Mandy is more my type of weird than Lynch’s work). Maybe a bit of Under The Skin style-wise? Maybe. Not really. I don’t know. Mandy isn’t much like anything I’ve seen before. And I love that! As I watch so many films, I’m always searching for something that feels a little bit different. Mandy certainly satisfied that need.

But did I like it? I definitely enjoyed watching it and it was probably worth the extremely expensive trip into London to see it. Yes, I liked it. I didn’t love it – I just appreciated seeing something so memorable. I can’t imagine watching it again but, with something like this, I don’t feel the need to as I’ll never forget it. That’s also important to me as I watch so many films that end up being truly forgettable. There are movies I saw a year ago that I hardly remember a thing about now. What’s the point of that?? I feel like I waste too much time on movies but that’s because I’m always searching for something feels like a work of art. I’m happy to say that, although I’m still trying to fully sort out my feelings on it, Mandy was worth my time. I expect it to make it into my Top Ten at the end of this year but it’s very hard to know where to place it at the moment.

Let’s start with what I liked the most: My favorite thing was probably Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score. What a terrible loss to the world of filmmaking. Mandy is dedicated to him – it’s one of the last films he scored before his death. He’s most known for his work on several of the brilliant Denis Villeneuve’s films and his score for Mandy truly helped set the bizarre, trippy & unsettling mood. Next would be the way that Panos Cosmatos used color throughout the film. It’s a beautiful film. Great imagery, combined with an atmospheric score, are often all I need to keep me happy. Oh, speaking of Villeneuve, I suppose I was also reminded a bit of Blade Runner 2049 here with the gorgeous use of color or cinematography or whatever the hell made these movies so lovely (I know nothing about filmmaking – I just know what my eyes like).

Besides a great score & look, the next thing I most care about is great characters. Mandy isn’t quite as strong on that as it is on its look & sound but the actors were all fantastic and made these characters far stronger & more interesting than you normally get in a horror film. The story itself, well, isn’t really all that important anyway. I’m not sure what the hell was going on with the Weird Science demon biker dudes but that doesn’t matter either. They were silly fun. All you need to know is that it’s a revenge film and who doesn’t love a good revenge film? It’s the only time I can stomach violence in a movie: when evil fuckers get what’s coming to them. Is that fucked-up? I’m a wuss with violence but didn’t look away during any of Mandy. That may partly be due to it being cheesy, 80’s sort of gore (the film is set in 1983 so that’s the vibe it’s going for).

Back to the characters: Nicolas Cage is really good in this. Yes. Can you believe it? I’m not really a fan as he’s just too damn cheesy most of the time. I’ll say there were two fellow bloggers who helped convince me to make the journey to see Mandy: Mike at Screenkicker (review HERE) and Greg Moss at Mossfilm (review HERE). I totally agree with what Greg said about it feeling like Cage was reined in on this one. He’s still crazy Nic Cage but it works with this bonkers film and he’s far less nuts than the bad guys. He was perfect for this role & I assume credit has to be given to Cosmatos for Cage not being too over-the-top for once. Even looking like this, he’s not the craziest motherfucker in this thing:

And his thirst for vengeance is completely understandable as we get a good amount of time seeing his character with Mandy and how in love they are. Andrea Riseborough gives a great understated performance as Mandy (someone had to be understated in this thing!). It was a good contrast with the batshit crazy leader of the cult who becomes obsessed with her & tries to make her another one of his followers. Cult leader Jeremiah is played by Linus Roache and he’s probably the most terrifying character I’ve seen in quite a while. Michael Myers has nothing on this twat. (By the way – I’m reviewing the new Halloween movie later today). Jeremiah is completely unhinged and I wanted Nic Cage to kill the absolute fuck out of this bastard:

Whoa. This is the longest “review” I’ve written in ages. It just goes to show that I’m far more interested in a film like this than I am in the same old predictable shit that we normally see. As I said, I’ll be posting my review of Halloween (2018) later today and it’s super short as I have very little to say about it. It’s nothing we haven’t seen in hundreds of other slashers. But Mandy is unique. Most people are likely to hate it if they watch it but they certainly won’t forget it.

My Rating: 7.5/10

To give you a little bit of an idea of the mood of this film, the below King Crimson song (Starless) is played at the beginning. It sets the mood perfectly. Mandy is basically the prog rock of movies: it’s trippy, it’s a little bit pretentious, and only a select few will actually like it (yes, I do like a bit of prog rock when I’m in the mood for that sort of thing…):

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Nocturnal Animals (2016) Review

Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Directed by Tom Ford

Based on Tony and Susan by Austin Wright

Starring: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Armie Hammer, Laura Linney, Andrea Riseborough, Michael Sheen

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
An art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a veiled threat and a symbolic revenge tale.

My Opinion:

Well! This movie was certainly… interesting? I love Amy Adams but sci-fi is my type of thing so Arrival is the only one I’d planned on going to see (it’s EXCELLENT, by the way – I’m posting my review tomorrow). Hubby saw Nocturnal Animals then was weirdly insistent on me seeing it too while being cryptic as to if it would actually be worth my time. Now I understand: This is one of those movies you want other people to see so you can talk about it & discuss your theories on the meaning of the symbolism and the different characters’ actions & intentions and, umm……. Okay – This is one of those movies you want other people to see so they can maybe tell you what the f*^k is going on. 😉

Was Nocturnal Animals worth my time? Yes. It’s easily in my top ten 2016 movie releases now & I’d be surprised if it’s not still there by December 31st. But it’s a difficult watch and I can’t exactly say I had a “fun time” watching it. I highly doubt I’ll ever watch it again and, quite frankly, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to. It’s intensely disturbing and I was kind of glad when it finished. Am I selling this one to you yet?! Ha! I’m pretty sure I’ll never be asked to contribute a quote for a movie’s poster.

I’m not trying to dissuade anyone from seeing this. In fact, I very highly recommend it. However, I’d only recommend it to a small selection of people who I think would appreciate it, like several of my fellow movie bloggers who may be reading this. You just need to be warned of what you’re getting into if you watch Nocturnal Animals: I guarantee you’ll either love this or you’ll think it’s the most pretentiously boring piece of shit you’ve seen in a long time. There’s my movie poster quote for this!

I always say this but I turn to movies for escapism, which is probably why I go for sci-fi & fantasy and never for gritty realism. I don’t like the ugliness in this world so I don’t enjoy things like true crime dramas, serial killer movies, etc. I say that because this movie is partly “gritty crime drama”. Well, it is yet it isn’t… Just be warned that these parts of the film contain violence more extreme than I’d been expecting (hubby – you could’ve warned me, dude!). The gritty parts are necessary, though, as you start to realize the full meaning behind them so I managed to muddle through despite finding these scenes very uncomfortable.

I’ll try to stay as spoiler-free as possible with this review but I think it’s safe to say that this movie is a story within a story (the book written by the ex-husband of Amy Adams, which she reads throughout the movie). So we go back and forth between Adams & the story in the book which, on the surface, is nothing more than a standard pulpy crime drama. But it IS something much more than that & only Adams and her ex-husband (and hopefully the film’s audience) will be aware of that.

I often don’t go for the “story within a story” thing (er, unless it’s The Princess Bride… Best. Movie. Ever.) but I was completely engrossed every time the movie went back to the book’s crime drama story. Yes, the story feels like formulaic “pulp” (probably why the ex-husband, Jake Gyllenhaal, apparently never made it big as an author) yet it’s so intense & so brilliantly acted that you’re drawn into this story far more than the real-life story of Adams and her superficial art gallery world. But that’s the whole point: Unlike Adams’ real-life extravagant lifestyle, the book’s “fictional” world feels far more real & is full of a raw emotion that I’ve rarely seen captured so well on screen. Honestly, I found these scenes so profoundly & disturbingly moving that credit must be given to everyone involved in their making whether you like the movie or not. Though extremely upsetting, I found this film to be one of the most immersive movie experiences I’ve had since seeing Room, although the emotional effect was the exact opposite (Room filled me with pure joy).

As always, Adams is very good with an understated performance but it’s Gyllenhaal who really shines in what is actually the far more important role. I’ve never been a big fan of his and, though I’ve seen him in plenty of highly regarded roles, I think this is the film that has finally made me appreciate him as an actor. I also loved Michael Shannon in quite a small role as the sheriff in the book’s story. Again, he’s someone highly regarded yet I’ve paid him little attention so, for any of his fans reading this, this movie is worth you checking out just for his role. I can’t guarantee you’ll like the actual movie but he’s fantastic.

I know this is only fashion designer Tom Ford’s second film and I’ve not seen A Single Man but I definitely want to see more from him after this. I think there’s some true brilliance in this film that will unfortunately be too casually regarded as pretentious. I can totally understand why it would be labelled as such, though, as it initially appears that way with beautifully artistic shots & with rich art world snobs moaning about their superficial problems. But the movie itself is the same as book’s story within the film: On the surface it’s superficial & formulaic but deep down it’s an allegorical tale. Wait… The movie is an allegory of itself! No. Um… The book in the movie is an allegory of the real life story in the movie while the movie itself is an allegory of… Something! Maybe. I just like throwing the word “allegory” around. Trust me, there’s some crazy allegorical shit going on here. I’m sure of it!

Is the film itself as deep as its story within a story? I don’t know. My mind is still working on that but I like that I’m still thinking about this movie days after watching it. That’s what I consider true art and only a handful of movies play on my mind for days afterwards. Nocturnal Animals is definitely not for everyone but, if you’re someone who wants something more than just pure entertainment, you may be the type to find this movie an intensely rewarding experience. Or you may just be pretentious. 😉

My Rating: 8/10

**To all the pretentious snobs like me who’ve seen this movie, feel free to discuss it with me in the comments! Full-on spoilers allowed, so avoid reading the comments if you’ve not yet seen this – I think it’s not yet out in America? I want to talk about this one. I want to discuss the parallels in the movie’s story & movie book’s story. The meaning of some of the imagery. The overall meaning of the movie: is it deep like the film’s book or superficial like the film’s real-world. What was with all the naked butts?!? The real life book this is based on (as opposed to the book within the movie) – has anyone read it? Should I dye my hair the same color as Amy Adams in the hope that I’ll look exactly like her? Discuss! 🙂

Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance) (2014) Review

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Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance) (2014)

Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu

Starring:
Michael Keaton
Zach Galifianakis
Edward Norton
Andrea Riseborough
Amy Ryan
Emma Stone
Naomi Watts

Running time: 119 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A washed up actor, who once played an iconic superhero, battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career and himself in the days leading up to the opening of a Broadway play.

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My Opinion:

Birdman is definitely a film lover’s film. I’ll probably not mention it to any co-workers today if they ask what I did over the weekend because I know I’d just be met with blank stares. I’m not saying that as some film snob because I’m not – I like some things that are slightly more obscure but I also like plenty of mainstream movies. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy Birdman as much I was hoping I would as a film lover.

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First of all, I’ll say that the performances are as good as I’d heard. I’m very happy that Michael Keaton is nominated for an Oscar as I’ve always quite liked him and I think he’s done an excellent job in this so it’s nice seeing him finally getting some recognition (and he’s my favorite Batman). Emma Stone is also very good as his messed up daughter and Edward Norton as a real prick of an actor. I can’t fault any of the acting or the script or… anything, really. It just didn’t really work for me overall and I walked away from the movie knowing it was one I “appreciated” as opposed actually “enjoyed”. Which is fine sometimes but it’s great when you can have both. As far as this year’s movies filled with Oscar nominated performances, I think I actually preferred Foxcatcher as a film.

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Even more than a film lover’s movie, this is an ACTOR’S movie. I can see why actors or anyone with theater experience would love it. It’s not something I can relate to at all but I’ll be very surprised if Keaton doesn’t win the Oscar as he’ll certainly get all the actors’ votes. I really liked the “play within a play” concept and the use of music worked so perfectly with that. I also liked the various storylines for each character and there were some good humorous moments.

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To read a great review from someone who more fully appreciates what this movie is trying to do, I’d suggest you read Cara’s Birdman review over HERE at Silver Screen Serenade. She uses big words like meta! Well, okay – that’s actually a pretty short word… I’m not going to ramble on about this movie or do a summary. This is a good movie with an original concept and great performances (including a career high from Keaton). I very much appreciate what they’ve tried to do and like that it felt fresh & original. But, in the end, I just didn’t really care about the characters (except maybe Keaton’s a little) or what the outcome would be. Still, I fully support movies like this as opposed to the countless remakes, reboots & sequels out there. I just wanted to like it more.

My Rating: 7/10

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Oblivion (2013) Review

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Directed by Joseph Kosinski

Starring:
Tom Cruise
Olga Kurylenko
Andrea Riseborough
Morgan Freeman
Melissa Leo
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

Plot:
I’m being lazy & copying what’s below from Wikipedia. You can click on the link if you want to see more of the plot description but it tells you the plot of the entire movie. I think you’re better off going to this movie knowing only the following basic information – to discuss the plot further gives too much away:

2077: Following an invasion by alien Scavengers (Scavs) sixty years earlier which destroyed the Moon and nearly destroyed the Earth, Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is Tech 49, one of the last few humans stationed on earth. He lives thousands of feet in a work tower above the Earth where he and his communications officer and lover Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) are part of an operation to extract the planet’s remaining resources, especially water. Jack and Victoria supposedly have no memory of the past, having undergone a mandatory “memory wipe” five years prior. They now maintain contact with civilization via a video link with their commander, Sally (Melissa Leo), and are due to join the rest of humanity on Titan in two weeks. Jack suffers from recurring dreams and flashbacks of New York before the invasion and an unknown woman. Assisting Jack in his work are weaponised ‘drones’, airborne machines that scour the landscape to destroy the remaining alien resistance.

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My opinion:

I saw this almost a week ago & have been putting off reviewing it as I didn’t know how to go about it & also still haven’t fully decided what I thought of it. First of all – Tom Cruise. I don’t tend to watch Tom Cruise movies much these days. I haven’t been a fan since, I suppose, the days of Top Gun. To me he’s become one of those actors that I just always see as himself – I don’t see him as the characters he’s playing in movies. Tom Hanks has become this way for me too although I still like him fine. And Nicolas Cage! As I said in my review for The Croods, Nicolas Cage can be too Nicolas Cage-y. Likewise, Tom Cruise is far too Tom Cruise-y in Oblivion. 😉

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But this is a sci-fi movie. I love sci-fi – it’s possibly my favorite movie genre (even though the concepts are more than my little brain can cope with half the time). So I wanted to see it despite Tom Cruise’s Tom Cruise-y-ness. The movie starts out good and I was thoroughly enjoying the first half. The look of the film is great. The drones and the work station where Cruise and his assistant live are very sleek and cool and… science fiction-y looking! (Yes, I’m great at descriptive words – I just add a “y” to the ends of things. Should really work on my writing skills someday!). I totally want to swim naked in the pool in their work station and wear the dresses & high heels Cruise’s assistant wears for work every day (although I did wonder why she didn’t just stay in her pajamas every day – surely that’s one of the benefits of working from home!). Um, am I talking about dresses & high heels? Sorry – I don’t go girly-girl TOO often! Back to the movie…

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Like I said, the first half is good and I was thoroughly enjoying it. Unfortunately, the second half does NOT live up to the first half. It turns into a combination of every classic sci-fi movie you’ve ever seen. Which SHOULD work. But it doesn’t. I just didn’t want to see something I’ve already seen in other, more superior sci-fi movies. I found the ending disappointing & predictable. Now, I’m not saying the movie is BAD. If I was new to the genre & hadn’t seen so many classic 70’s sci-fi films, I’d think Oblivion was very good. So it might be good if it manages to get a new generation into sci-fi but I can’t see that happening as this movie doesn’t seem aimed at a slightly younger crowd, especially with its choice of stars. And for those who love Morgan Freeman, like I do, you may be disappointed in how little he’s actually in the movie. He was wasted in this.

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AND… I’m sorry but is New York City the ONLY city that exists in our future?! (Even in a “totally destroyed” way except for a few pieces of identifying landmarks). I have nothing against the city but why is it used so often in these types of movies? There are lots of other big cities around the world & in America, right? And Tom Cruise wearing a baseball cap & reliving some Super Bowl game he read about or whatever isn’t going to really appeal to a worldwide audience or keep the movie feeling very sci-fi & timeless. (I’m not being anti-American as I’m American – I’m just being anti-sports. I hate sports! Especially football. So I’m sure it’s just me who was annoyed by this bit). And… Led Zeppelin? Again? Didn’t Argo do that already (and more effectively)?

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Um. It’s not a bad movie, really. I don’t think. But my thing against Tom Cruise’s Tom Cruise-y-ness & slight snobbishness about already seeing and loving lots of classic sci-fi films makes me think I’m possibly judging Oblivion a little unfairly. I was entertained, especially in the first half, and it looked fantastic. And it was totally science fiction-y! 😉 I’ve gone back & forth on the rating I’d give it – was going to go with a 6 but that’s what I gave Trance and it’s definitely a better movie than that is. And at least it’s reminded me that I really need to watch some of the sci-fi classics that I’ve been meaning to watch for years.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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