Reviews: Stoker, Dead Man Down, Jack the Giant Slayer


The less you know entering Stoker, the better. It’s that kind of film. Although even if you knew the plot going in, it’s unlikely to “spoil” anything for you. The joy of Stoker is Chan Wook Park’s gorgeous imagery. After the death of her father, India (Mia Wasikowska) is curious about the sudden arrival of her uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode). She’s even more curious about Charlie’s seeming interest in her mother (Nicole Kidman), who should be mourning. It’s one of the least predictable films in some time, and while it’s a fairly straight-forward character study, the unpredictability is in the details– the imagery, the symbolism, the transitions, the moments. They pack a punch by arriving and unfolding with exquisite timing. A piano duet is the best scene of 2013 to date, swinging lights and boxes of shoes create an unusual Gothic thriller mood… but the thrills don’t come from jumps or gore, it comes from the enjoyment of that eerie lack of knowledge regarding what is coming around the corner. Wasikowska, who normally isn’t my flavor, gives a career-best performance, Goode’s icy charm fits the role like a glove, and Jacki Weaver makes a huge impression in a few scenes. Kidman is the weak link, her tight face never allowing us to soak in the depth of her character’s internal life. While the material itself isn’t flawless, the visuals alone are without parallel, and make Stoker a gorgeous film absolutely worth absorbing. Perhaps more than once.

Dead Man Down:

“Dead Man Down, the new directorial effort from Niels Arden Oplev, desperately tries to deliver the pleasures of both a noirish thriller and an action bonanza. Unfortunately, it fails at both. Some slick cinematography and a game cast are wasted, as you feel the story plod through each laborious plot point without any real impact. It’s not terrible at character building, but its inability to maintain a steady tone causes a mental checkout in the audience. Plus, it’s so damn familiar: the biggest twist that this film delivers is its utter refusal to provide us with a twist. We get two straight-forward characters, a straight-forward revenge plot, and a fractured sense of what the film would like to be. Why does a film like Dead Man Down exist? It’s too dark to make money, yet it’s too unoriginal and incoherent to be art. It gives us no real themes to marinate upon, yet it gives us very little memorable action in which to revel. It’s simply a mish-mosh and a shame. Dead Man Down never had a chance to get up in the first place.”

Read the rest here.

Jack the Giant Slayer:

“It’s impossible to imagine a good Jack and the Beanstalk film. The fairy tale itself simply isn’t cinematic. When you add to the equation the sheer degree of difficulty in creating believable effects work for giants, beanstalks, and a kingdom in the sky, it simply doesn’t seem to be worth the financial investment. However, as re-imaginings of fairy tales seem to be en vogue, someone clearly saw money to be made if the fairy tale was given more, you know, pizzazz. The trailers gave me pause, but admittedly, in terms of blockbuster storytelling, the minds behind Jack the Giant Slayer did a fine job. They ground up the bones of the fairy tale to make the bread of their film, so to speak. The film itself remains underwhelming, as you might expect, but it’s quite possibly the best Jack and the Beanstalk film you could imagine the studio system producing. Whatever that means.”

Read the rest here.

~ by russellhainline on March 8, 2013.

3 Responses to “Reviews: Stoker, Dead Man Down, Jack the Giant Slayer”

  1. I’ve been really interested in watching Stoker, but it hasn’t come out in my area yet. I haven’t liked Nicole Kidman recently – she’s like the reanimated dead – but that first line of hers from the trailers is fantastic, as well as that unhinged look on her face. (Although it seems that’s the only expression she can muster these days).

  2. Ahh, I think I’ve enjoyed the stunning visual of Stoker more than its story. Also, hey, what are your thoughts on the Oldboy remake (even if it’s not out yet!)?

  3. Stoker is one of my favourite films of 2013 so far. Absolutely adore Chan-wook Park films. Good review and awesome site, I am now following. I recently started my own film blog and love for you to check it out.

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