Sunday, February 12, 2012


Melancholia (2011)

Dir. Lars Von Trier

      The movie Melancholia (2011) by Lars von Trier is an odd one. It embraces its title to the fullest, providing the viewer with the deepest sense of melancholy and making everything you might do after the viewing pointless and burdening (hipsters and scene kids will really enjoy it - “It's sooo dark and meaningful, but you common people just won't get it”). Also, it will surely be a favourite amongst the snobby types, as the camera work is actually stunning; I still can't get the opening shots out of my head and it has been about a month since I watched it, which means this review was supposed to be ready 3 weeks ago, oops! Anyway...

      The camera work is captivating going from long steady shots in the prologue and introducing the viewer to the emotional backdrop of the film. It then goes to shaky-cam in Part I, showing just how emotionally uncomfortable Justine (Kirsten Dunst) was in the setting created it seems not for her, but for Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg); I will get to characters/archetypes later. In Part II, the camera slows down, and the viewer finds him/herself watching Claire trying to get adjusted to Justine's realm. When she realizes that she can't and her fear takes over, the cameraman was nowhere to be found, so the camera was taken over by a dude filming the next apocalyptic action movie next door. I'm dead serious... no I'm not, but that's what it looks like.

      I also thoroughly enjoyed the light and the colours and all the other stuff that people don't pay attention too. It was all very atmospheric and with all the depressive end-of-the-world stuff happening, it kinda sorta looked like The Virgin Suicides: Part 2. Which brings me to Kirsten, who no doubt regains her crown as the Queen of Indie. The next logical step would be to make a movie with her in a coma for a good half of it. She fits her role perfectly, with her melancholy stares, and cute dimples that suggest that there is a whole range of emotion just beneath them.


      Here we go! On the ground scheme of things, the main characters of Melancholia represent the three archetypes of human nature. The primitive nature of humans in Claire – the mother fearful for her child; the mystic and unreasonable in Justine – the visionary, detached from socially accepted standards of behaviour; and the logical in John – the scientist sure of his calculations. Leo, the child, plays a role of a bond that keeps all of these characters/aspects together. In Lars's eyes, in the most extraordinary circumstances there is no space for logic, there is only the primitive and the magical that will guide us through whatever there is to come, connected by the pure and innocent.


      The plot of this film starts developing pretty late in the movie. The whole Part I is very uneasy and awkward and a torture to sit through, but I think it pays off in the end, because it helps to develop the main characters. So buy yourself a pack of cigarettes and sit through it! Part II is where all the “action” happens in the movie, and if you had the courage (and enough nicotine) to get to Part II, you will enjoy it.

Overall, I would recommend this movie to:

-Kirsten Dunst fans
-People who like aesthetically pleasing imagery
-People who like seeing lots of references to other pieces of art (oh, I meant hipsters)
-Movie snobs

Till next time!



Monday, February 6, 2012

Split Second

Split-Second (1992)
Dir. Tony Maylam

     Ah, the buddy cop movie that had its peak during the 80s and 90s with the Lethal Weapon franchise. They all progress in the same way. Two mismatched cops are abruptly assigned to work together and don’t get along well at all. One is the good cop that plays by the book, while the other is a total dick. Eventually, though, the two discover they have something in common and find they can get along pretty well despite their differences. The bad boy cop is supposed to have some redeeming value at some point that’s supposed to make him mesh well not only with his partner, but also the audience. Somehow the writers of Split-Second managed to get the first part of this simple formula right, but forgot to make Rutger Hauer’s Detective Harley Stone likeable in any way, shape, or form.
     “They say he’s the best” claims someone at the beginning of the movie, who we’re supposed to assume knows something about Detective Stone that the audience doesn’t. Yet, this becomes hard to buy into after Stone barges into a nightclub, says ‘Police, Dick-head!’ to a confused-looking dog, and fires indiscriminately at rats in an alleyway.

     Somehow, someone came under the impression after seeing Blade Runner, that Rutger Hauer was grade-A material for an action star. They even have him dress in a long leather trench coat, wearing some of the most unfitting John Lennon sunglasses, and smoking a cigar that he lights with a blowtorch as though he were Schwarzenegger. He slings his shotgun over his shoulder to complete an image that can only be described as crass.

     Split-Second is set in what is supposed to be a post-apocalyptic London, England, in the not so distant future of…2008. According to the prologue, global warming has caused massive floods around the world, which ironically isn’t that far off from the truth. Yet the only impact this creates is having Split-Second’ characters slushing around knee-deep in water. This seems less a way to create a realistic vision for the future, and more for a way to cover up the fact that they couldn’t afford any decent set pieces. The London of the future looks an awful lot like the London of the 1990s, but with lots more water. In fact, considering that the futuristic setting has absolutely no bearing at all on the plot, one can’t help but think that maybe there were just a lot of leaky pipes in the studio at the time and they needed some half-ass way of including it into the movie.

     Split-Second’s story is really more horror than sci-fi and I mean that in the loosest possible way. We don’t really get to see the shape-shifting, serial-killing monster that’s been plaguing Stone until the end of the movie. Usually this is a trick that horror directors do, where they don’t reveal the monster until the end to build up suspense. I don’t think the people who made Split-Second were competent enough to rip off a better horror movies. It seems more likely they didn’t even have the monster effects finished until near the end of shooting. And when I say monster effects, I really mean a rip-off of the creature from Alien using a motorcycle helmet barely hidden with lots of ooze.

     The aforementioned good cop of ‘Split-Second’ is Dick Durkin played by Alastair Duncan. After Stone’s rat killing spree, his police chief decides to do something extremely sensible and take the psychotic Stone off of his suspension, and not only that, but also arbitrarily pair him up with the geeky Durkin. Durkin is a real shoe-in as Stone’s partner since he just so happens to have an Oxford education. Throughout the rest of the movie, Durkin helps Stone by talking technobabble and complete random b.s. about astrology that is either there to give Split-Second an air of class, or to rip off Dirty Hairy and give Split-Second an air of class.

     Split-Second actually does manage to be entertaining at some point around the middle. After Stone spends most of the movie being a total dick to Dirkin, his fellow police officers, and pretty much every extra in the movie, the two officers start to bond. It’s not explained why, but I imagine a couple of deadly encounters with the creature made them feel they have a common enemy. This results in a slightly amusing scene where the two go shopping for ‘bigger guns’. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for the movie to transform into a contest of which character can say the lamest one-liners. I actually laughed not at how clever Split-Second’s attempts at humour were, but how stupid.

     Despite all of the above problems, the one that hurts Split-Second the most is that not only is its basic premise weak, but it doesn’t even know what it wants to be. Aside from the puddles of water everywhere and the impractically large guns, it’s not really science fiction and could have just as easily been set in the present day. It’s not really a good horror movie since its monster just isn’t frightening. It sure as hell isn’t an action movie since the only thing Rutger Hauer and Alastair Duncan actually shoot at is their own careers.


-Gabe Stein