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Film Review: Suspiria

“When You Dance The Dance Of Another, You Make Yourself In The Image Of Its Creator…”

Considered as one of the staple examples of horror cinema since its’ release in 1977, Dario Argento’s Suspiria continues to bewilder, bemuse and bewitch audiences both observing for the first time and avid returners still hooked in the enchanting spell cast by the Italian, with the iconic neon colour palette utilised for the film’s signature style and the extravagantly overblown score by Goblin the standout elements forty one years on. Whilst I can consider myself a stern admirer of the Argento classic, repeat viewings have failed to alter my opinion that even with all the outstanding elements within its’ genetic makeup, there also sits a few major ills, particularly in its’ longevity regarding certain special effects and awfully hammy acting, and whilst the thought of ever treading on such sacred ground for a remake, reboot or re-imagining seems fundamentally blasphemous, Suspiria circa 2018 is project which I have been gleefully looking forward to since the first whispers surfaced into the ears of cinema fans across the world. Directed by fellow Italian, Luca Guadagnino, (A Bigger Splash, Call Me By Your Name) who refers to his latest project as a homage to the Argento original rather than a fully blown remake, Suspiria sees Dakota Johnson (Bad Times as the El Royale) as Susie Bannion, a seemingly repressed yet mysterious American dancer who travels into the heart of a war torn West Berlin in order to be admitted into the world renowned Markos Dance Academy and fall under the wing of Tilda Swinton’s (Doctor Strange) lead choreographer, Madame Blanc.

Taking place in 1977, the release year and setting of the original, Guadagnino’s interpretation follows Argento’s original screenplay only to particular extents, using familiar characters and settings only in name as the Italian reunites with A Bigger Splash screenwriter, David Kajganich, for a script which is determined to offer something completely radical as it plunges headfirst into an array of themes and mythological exploration, setting the tone for a remake which doesn’t care how much you may love the original as it seeks to present a subversive, differing tale of events which sits at the opposite end of the cinematic spectrum in terms of its’ filmic genetic makeup. Of the more obvious changes, Guadagnino completely strips the neon embers of the Argento version for a more traditional, classic horror movie aesthetic, choosing to gloss the film in a grim, grainy colour palette and incorporating familiar B-movie genre tropes including quickfire camera zooms, schizophrenic editing and detailed facial shots similar to the likes of Don’t Look Now and more crucially, Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby. Whilst the original thrived on the central twist regarding the secretive coven of witches embedded within the heart of the school’s grounds, Kajganich’s script openly embraces such a fact from the outset, presenting the presence of evil as somewhat natural as we see Johnson’s Bannion quickly become the centre of a scheming plot to sacrifice her bewildering power to the unseen force of the school’s titular matriarchal figure, Helena Markos, and whilst the openness of such evil forces seemed a strange narrative choice heading into the movie, the decision does ultimately make absolute sense, saving an even bigger reveal for its’ own terrifying final act and understanding that most audiences heading in are original Suspiria fans anyway and therefore already well versed with the film’s central horror.

Synchronising deliciously with the purposeful intention to oppose pretty much everything within the original, Thom Yorke’s score beautifully and hauntingly glides hand in hand with the story, utilising a primarily piano led catalogue of tracks which matches the best work produced by Yorke both in a solo capacity and with Radiohead, with lead track, “Suspirium”, particularly impressive, encompassing the radical difference to the rather barmy but highly memorable Goblin score utilised in Argento’s film. At two and a half hours, the run-time does seem rather off-putting for some audiences who will undoubtedly find the slow burn nature of the pacing tortuously boring and irksome, but in a similar vein to Blade Runner 2049, the slower pace never felt much of an issue, building up dramatically to flashes of brutal, stylistic violence and a final act which when arrives feels particularly well earned. Among the many standout set pieces, the central dance sequences are incredibly well choreographed, with Guadagnino’s version emphasising the art of movement much more then the original ever did, and with added thematic notions regarding motherhood, the effect of war and a rather contemporary commentary on the abuse of power, Suspiria circa 2018 almost falls into the category of epic cinema, even when particular narrative arcs seem slightly tacked on to the extent that they either could have been shortened or removed completely. With Johnson and Swinton both absolutely superb in the central roles as they willingly buy into the vision created by a director they have both worked with in the past, Suspiria is a bold, beautiful and at times, genuinely unnerving work of art-house cinema which took the genetic code of a horror genre classic and redefined it from top to bottom.

Overall Score: 9/10

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Film Review – The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

The Princess Diaries

Although I was chuffed when Big Hero 6 walked away with the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at this years’ ceremony, my joy was short-lived when I realised  I hadn’t seen any other contender in the category. Yes, not even How to Train Your Dragon 2. One excuse was that The Tale of the Princess Kaguya hadn’t been released in the UK yet, even though it had been floating around cinemas across the world for the past couple of years. Now released and featuring an English-dubbed cast consisting of Chloe Grace Moretz, James Caan, and Lucy Liu, it was time for redemption, and to watch what once slipped through my fingers. Or eyes. You know what I mean.

Once upon time, in a galaxy far, far away, Mr Bamboo cutter, voiced by Sonny Corleone himself, James Caan, finds the tiniest of children hidden in a magical bamboo shoot and decides to take her under his, and his wife’s, wing, raising her like their own and naming her Princess, due to her ability to grow at the speed of knots and develop much quicker than that of a mortal human. One day, Mr Bamboo cutter finds gold and cloth of fine quality in the same place he found his beloved Princess, and decides that she must be moved to the capital in order to fulfill her fate of nobility and become a real-life princess. First off, the film looks beautiful. In terms of effort and sheer elbow-grease the film must have required from the makers, it deserves a standing ovation, and I’m rather glad it got recognised by the Oscars, albeit losing out to the much more mainstream Big Hero 6. Each scene looks like it should be paused, printed out, and shoved in the Louvre for close examination. It is simply a wonder to behold.

Now on to the story. Imagine the wonder of Pans Labyrinth. but set in the delicate world of a U rated movie; that’s what came to mind during the course of Tale’s simply glorious story that deals with all the key subjects of childhood, moving home, arranged marriage, and finally, fulfilling  your destiny. The length of 137 minutes for an animated movie might be questionable, with the film suffering slightly during the half-way mark, but sticking with it results in one of the most heartbreaking, yet inevitable, endings of an animated movie you may ever see. In a nutshell? It’s lovely.

Overall Score: 8/10

Kickass 2 – Quicky Review – SPOILERS

Kickass 1This part is written solely on what I see and can tell from the trailer…Kickass is a guy dressed up as a superhero with no physical powers to fight crime. Essentially, he is a nerdy, weak and stupid version of batman in a florescent wetsuit and mask. Returning back to his world, we see that more and more people are turning into these “superheroes” since Kickass killed a mob boss in the previous movie. Since then, Red Mist (The mob bosses son) turns into “The Motherfucker” with the intent of becoming the world’s first super villain and have a collection of criminals to match the good guys and wiping kickass off the face of the earth. Aaron Taylor-Johnson decided that he wanted to beef up for this one but he still plays a character that seems inept at any sort of defense or sponging ability. Plus constantly getting his ass handed to him by Hitgirl (Chloë Grace Moretz) never makes this character look tough. I’m hoping that in this follow-up, we should see better fighting, funny jokes and an entertaining script as the previous one just seemed simple and lackluster with a lot of overly used swears. I’m hoping that the added cast of Jim Carrey and Donald Faison (Turk from Scrubs), weshall see a far stronger movie.

So, if you’ve been following my Twitter feed, you shall notice that I really enjoyed this follow up. Kickass 2 is one of the best sequels that I have seen in quite some time. My impression of these heroes have changed substantially since I’ve seen the original and its great to have a varying cast of new players with a collection of screwed up names that are borderline racist, especially in terms of the super villains. Jumping into the story, we follow on from the previous story. Kickass has retired his costume, Hitgirl is being looked after by Detective Williams and ‘in’ high school. It turns out that she is disappearing every day to go to an old outpost of her fathers that is heavily equipped with weaponry and training equipment that she spends everyday in. After convincing Dave (Kickass), Mindy (Hitgirl) starts to train him in the same fashion as her father. For instance, the iconic scene when he shoots her in the chest to form trust in the kevlar vest. Eventually found out, she is forced to back away and the roles switch as Dave tries to convince Mindy. While all this goes on The Motherfucker / Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) kills his mother by accident and plots the death of Kickass by forming an evil army run with his fathers fortunes and Mafia goons. Since Kickass left the game, he has inspired others to do the same and fight crime. Heroes popping up everyday end up forming a team and fighting together, the squad leader, Kickass 3Captain Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey) is a reformed mob enforcer with a dislike to curse words but a fondness for comical violence. In the process of the story, The Motherfucker gets even with Kickass but still wants more and demands his death. While all of this goes on, there are sub-stories of friendship, companionship and the occasional argument between friends and this is just on Dave’s side of the story. Mindy has a very different story. Forced to go back to high school, she is manipulated by the popular kids and is treated like shit to convey the reality of school life which sends a powerful message about how it affects a strong, independent girl. So, as a story it is fairly effective, a little basic but still good. With a few shock twists that really catch you out as they are so obscure, you couldn’t have predicted it.

This time around, the script was a little less loud mouth Chav with Tourette’s. Now it has tamed down the swearing quite substantially and I feel I know why. Jim Carrey is in very little movies with excessive swearing and violence, so he negotiated with the writers to reduced the level so his fan base would be able to attend which also helps to explain his characters dislike to swearing. The captain was quite a strong character and it was brilliant to see that at the time of his death, it sparked up fear and panic in realistic and plausible ways. You may have also heard about Jim Carrey backing away from Kickass with the recent shootings that convinced him to make a stand against it. In terms of the action and violence, it was exciting and fun. I was smiling on my way out of the cinema as it was amazing fun. Lots of blood, adrenaline filled fights with a variety of weapons and actions scenes that became badass in seconds. For instance, Dave is being beaten down at Dr. Gravity runs in blocking a blow and hell breaks loose. Its street fighter on drugs.

Acting wise, it wasn’t going to be incredible but I really think Donald Faison and Jim Carrey dominated it and Dr. Gravity was Turk in a superhero costume, so he didn’t venture to far from one of his best roles. A lot of weight was placed on Carrey and its a huge surprise when he is brutally murdered but they are pretty damn good at keeping the secrets and acting the scenes appropriately. Chole Moretz had to be different in this. She had to play a high school teen with issues alongside a hard girl with a dark past. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is very much the same but he has padded up substantially for this role, yet can’t defend himself. This annoys me to no end. While the Motherfucker is now wearing his mothers gimp outfit swearing and throwing his money about to get more power and destroy Kickass for what he did. The multiple members that he collected were awesome. Mother Russia was massive. The most destructive of the bunch and she kept a straight face all the way through, no loss of character and a lot of focus on the Russian stereotype. The others also have borderline racist names combined with the equally racist outfit for the asian Yakuza.

I feel the whole movie deserves a 8/10. It’s funny, varied, a massive improvement on the original with a great cast. I couldn’t talk much more about it as 1, I’m tired. 2, work. 3, I have other things to do. Enjoy guys! 2 Guns review out later this week!

Kickass