Suck on this, Twilight. Xan Cassavetes' Kiss of the Damned is a thoroughly conventional vampire film, stitched together from genre tropes from all kinds of related influences - even the genre of 'Vampire Movie' itself is a cliche. But its reverence for these tropes and its success in mimicking them is highly fulfilling, and this is a stylish, sensual slip of a film as a result. Pretty pictures alone may not be sufficient to sustain even a 90-minute affair such as this, but they're sustenance enough for significant stretches of time, and Cassavetes displays a conviction in handling them that one might expect from a member of one of film's most famous families. When she pairs these sumptuous images with an equally sumptuous soundtrack (with generous helpings of classical music, to crank the melodrama up to full power), Kiss of the Damned is enormous fun, and it's so satisfying to see style turned so memorably into real cinematic substance; when she pairs them with dialogue, you may wonder if these vampires plan to bleed you to death or just talk you to death. In short, the script is dire, and rarely even necessary, and the acting is hardly better. But that's mostly not the point. The point is that those carrying out the acting are so fucking sexy, their outfits so fucking chic, their homes so fucking beautiful, their lives so fucking good, so fucking far from the miserable existences most vampire films depict, that it all amounts to a sensational hybrid fashion editorial / soft-porn. Kiss of the Damned doesn't merely hint towards eroticism, it orgasmically ejaculates it all over the camera lens. Some films make you think. Some make you cry. And some make you hard. And what's wrong with that?!?
Sunday, 31 March 2013
Thursday, 28 March 2013
Trance aspires to be a thriller set within the mind, but it is just a thriller set in its own celluloid frame. Danny Boyle's latest music video is every bit the hyper-stylised hodgepodge we've come to expect from him, and he makes predictably thorough use of the practically limitless scope that his film's premise provides him. Other filmmakers normalise their unreality or dream sequences in order to trick the audience into accepting them as reality; Danny Boyle cranks up his reality to the level of chaos in order to trick the audience into disbelieving everything - a neat trick, since we can't help but believe what we see, even when we know we're not seeing everything. Rather than lie to us, Trance simply obscures the intricacies of its plot until the end, when layer upon layer is ripped off to help us fill in the gaps. This all happens too quickly, and too late, since we spend most of the film swimming around on the surface layer, and writers Joe Ahearne and John Hodge have to kill time developing a vapid sexual subplot whose primary purpose appears to be as an opportunity to get Rosario Dawson out of her clothes (again). It's eventually not as clever as it wants to be, nor as radical, so Boyle himself kills time with brash violence and would-be action and lots of loud noises as the story attempts to veer off-road, but just keeps going around in circles, like when you're trying to find the start of a roll of sticky-tape. Production values are alternately crass and cool, and sometimes override the rest of the film to the extent that you wonder if Danny Boyle really is the genius we credit him as, or if he just relies on a team of dedicated crew members. As art, it's less than satisfying, but as entertainment, it's first-rate, and I doubt Boyle and co. were ever aiming for much more than that. One thing's for sure in his films: you're rarely bored, if ever. Captivated, you might say. Entranced.
Wednesday, 27 March 2013
My resolution to watch Ian McShane in anything he's in is wearing thin. He casts a glance in Jack the Giant Slayer, one which the camera acknowledges but only just: as his statue is toppled and beheaded before his own eyes, he regards its destruction with such nonchalant disdain you wonder if he's even noticed. Bryan Singer quickly cuts, as if to deter the ennui from seeping through the lens and into the theatre, but he's much too late. Singer pitches Jack somewhere between Jurassic Park and most of Peter Jackson's films, only misplacing the originality with which Jackson infused said films - indeed, Jackson's remakes and adaptations are leagues more original than this. The first act topples forward, as if relying on our memory of Jackson's and Spielberg's back catalogues to fill in the blanks, skipping from scene to scene and line to line in a manner that suggests that the majority of this shit has been exorcised in favour of dazzling CGI and epic battle sequences, neither of which ever materialise, although not for want of trying. Despite a budget edging $200 million, this is a remarkably cheap-looking film, drearily shot by DP Newton Thomas Sigel, and seemingly designed out of an am-dram company's prop and costume trunk. The clumsily animated giants are voiced as leading IRA members, which had me devising political subtexts I knew weren't in the film (the script's intelligence level doesn't stretch nearly that far) but which were far more interesting than what was on screen. Just about every actor is miscast, from the plain Eleanor Tomlinson (hardly worth the effort), to the preening Stanley Tucci. Ewan McGregor extraordinarily outdoes even his worst to set a new low for himself, and poor Nicholas Hoult looks thoroughly out of place - Hoult is a good actor, but he's no star, and he's no giant killer. Bryan Singer directs the whole troupe in scenes of people either standing around looking gormless or moving around looking gormless. This marks a new career low for all involved.
Tuesday, 26 March 2013
The idea, I think, is that you're supposed to engage with it, not follow it. There's no discernible connecting thread to the disparate scenarios scattered through Post Tenebras Lux; I don't doubt that one exists, but it is buried so deep inside the mind of Carlos Reygadas that one would have to be his shrink to be able to locate, never mind decipher it. Structurally, one might recall David Lynch's Inland Empire - a film similarly baffling and fragmented, but also teasingly cohesive in ways which seem just out of our grasp. Lynch intrigues and entertains us whilst provoking thought. Reygadas bores us whilst operating on an entirely different wavelength. His resistance to impart to us some suggestion regarding what he is aiming to achieve renders his film, as technically impressive and unerring in its naturalistic tone as it is, drab and inert. I have only so much tolerance for picturesque cinematography (attractive in its unattractiveness), vivid sound design and mildly enchanting atmosphere when the content is so quixotic. Reygadas has assembled his film as a moodboard, a collection of thoughts and ideas, cut up and stirred together, complete with sporadically bevelled framing (enhancing the sensation of closeness palpable in the dense soundscape and lugubrious visual palette) and moments of surrealism, which are among the most successful in the film, but still fail to establish any substantial connection with the viewer. He seems content with the fact that all this is likely to only prompt stronger claims that he is no more than an artsy-fartsy wannabe-auteur - a shame, since he is of considerable talent. For me, the failure lies most in the contradiction at the heart of Post Tenebras Lux: I saw all the darkness, and not a hint of light.
Monday, 25 March 2013
It all comes down to where you seek solace. Jasna could seek it in her family, but what teenager would? Her family represents the origins of her troubles, her father terminally ill and her mother's tether at its very end. She could seek it in school, but what good is working hard for a hard future, eking out whatever living she can in working-class Belgrade? She seeks solace in the hedonism of adolescence, wearing out every available stream of self-indulgence, no matter what the cost. It's not worth admitting her love for her family, as her father promises only to die and her mother to nag. Alcohol may make her vomit over the bedsheets, but at least it makes her drunk. Coke may make her addicted, but at least it makes her high. Her boyfriend controls her, and barely even likes her, but at least he makes her come. She may grow up to learn the extent of the consequences she has wreaked upon herself - indeed, she is possibly being confronted with them now - but why bother to care until there's no alternative but to? What an impression Isidora Simijonovic makes as Jasna, an acting debut of among the highest quality that I have seen. Writer-director Maja Milos creates spaces in which the camera doesn't seem to exist - it is just an extension of the perspectives of the characters it observes, and the use of mobile phone recordings pronounces this further. Her touch is delicate and deft, bringing an appropriate air of candour and realism to the hard-hitting events depicted - appropriate because Clip serves as an antidote to cinema's sugar-coated view of teenage life. If Milos has a point to make, it's not a judgement on Jasna. It's a judgement on those who wish to see otherwise. There's more truth in this film than in almost any other you'll see this year.
Sunday, 24 March 2013
A flimsy flutter of a film. Abbas Kiarostami presents us with enigmas coiled up within casual realism. Like Someone in Love is blithely satisfying, akin to dipping your toes in a meandering spring and listening to the world around you. It's simple, but beautiful in its simplicity, and Kiarostami's move to Japan is apt in this regard, as he induces memories of the famed cinema of Yasujiro Ozu in doing so, whilst altering his own style not a jot. This is all just a veil, though, concealing depth and darkness barely tangible if you're not aware to seek it out, and insidiously soft and silent as such. The confidence in Kiarostami's technique which one feels when watching his films is one which he too must feel, as he lays his film stark and bare, every layer on show; fragile, but not thin. In its unchanging clarity, Like Someone in Love is a generous film, in fact, despite its deviousness (itself more forthright than on first glance) - one is allowed to examine and appreciate every element of the filmmaking thus, and Kiarostami's reticence to indulge his audience with emotional bombast at expected junctures only enables this further, rather than prolonging the monotony. And, since this is surely exactly the film he intended it to be, how could I complain? Yet I do, as I feel he achieves nothing in the film's final twenty minutes, elaborating on a scenario we could have imagined, alongside many other possible scenarios. Instead, we are left with a conclusion that leaves only a select few scenarios open to us, none of them as interesting as those which we could have conceived in our own minds.
Saturday, 23 March 2013
I'd like to report a murder. The victim's name is 'Halle Berry's career'. But that's old news, I suppose. And not even entirely apt - Berry's one of the best things about this lukewarm thriller. Granted, she leaves most of the character-related heavy lifting to her hair, but Berry has a tendency to overcook things when given the chance, and The Call offers her few opportunities to do so, forcing her to rely on her affable charisma and screen presence. This is a thriller designed with the sole purpose of thrilling, and I like that. It has a leanness and a straightforwardness that appeal to me. No fluff, no guff. It gets to the point. The problems lie with what the point is, though. The Call initially fumbles around with expository scenes only present to lull the viewer, confirming that they're in familiar territory - these scenes accomplish utterly nothing otherwise. Subsequently, it cuts to the chase (so to speak), and this is where it delivers the goods. This is formulaic filmmaking, getting by on a high concept and at a high speed, with a lot of lumpy editing, melodramatic music and mumbled dialogue - it's terrific stuff. And then, just as you begin to think you could do with a whole lot more of this, it hits a brick wall before stuttering to its inane conclusion. 90% of the plot is abandoned, and we're expected to either summon some sort of meaning for what happens next from other films we've seen, or give leave to our collective consciousness. The final twenty minutes of The Call have the atmosphere of a half-remembered dream, in that you wonder where most of it went, specifically the parts where sense and reason kicked in. The final scene is so moronic, you wonder why Halle Berry demanded so much money for her topless shot in Swordfish, and yet doesn't seem to have demanded even more for this tripe. Oh yeah, her career! The damage? It's already done.
Thursday, 21 March 2013
How do you get people to care? Publish an article and only a select few will read it. Make a TV documentary and people will change the channel. Make a film, and who’s actually going to pay money to leave their home for the privilege of watching something hopelessly depressing? Because Fire in the Blood’s story is not one to provoke thought or inspire argument. It’s the truth. It’s the past and it’s the present. It’s also the future. And millions of white people can so easily turn a blind eye to the worldwide struggle against AIDS and the struggle to provide affordable access to medicine for those most in need. They’d turn a blind eye to this film too, if millions of white people could even be convinced to watch it. Fire in the Blood aims straight down the middle, at big pharma, and bypasses so much as a suggestion that there are any shades of grey to this story – the cold fact is that this epidemic remains at crisis point, and the temerity of those who so persistently and cruelly restrict the cheap distribution of ARVs is despicable. It takes some time for the word ‘racist’ to be uttered in the film; it’ll take far less time for it to spring into your mind. As a work of cinema, this film is disappointingly amateurish and shabby, to the extent that you end up wishing that the filmmakers had stripped all the extraneous cinematic details (as scarce as they are) away and told the story as straight as possible. When it sinks in deepest, after all, the intended effect is achieved. But Fire in the Blood is not particularly about advancing the art of the documentary. Rather, it’s about raising awareness, and forcing people into action – alas, as such, it’ll likely be little more effective than any similar documentary, if at all. Maybe more people might care if they had published an article, or made a TV documentary. Or maybe not. Fire in the Blood ends on a glum note because that’s where we are at present, and it’s where we’ll be in the future too.
Wednesday, 20 March 2013
An energetic debut from British writer-director Sally El Hosaini, infused with a strong cultural spirit, but its surefootedness wanes as the plot takes a few too many detours. El Hosaini has a keen eye – she’s at her strongest when implying, suggesting, letting our minds fill in the gaps, whether consciously or not. Even if the richness of an apparently throwaway line of dialogue or momentary glance is lost on a less attentive viewer, the resonance of such details lingers, and comes to influence and explain later events. Her directorial trickery is occasionally a bit ham-fisted, but she has a flair for imbuing shots with a bracing vibrancy, with sensitive, unexpected framing. As the narrative takes turn after turn, one’s confidence in the ingenuousness of the story begins to ebb; at times, things seem plausible, and, more importantly, apt for bringing to attention those matters of the mind which the two leads daren’t express outwardly out of fear. At other times, El Hosaini succumbs to melodrama, and produces plot developments which don’t serve any honest purpose. I appreciate that some films make more sense back to front – that, if one works from the end, one can understand why the writer had to take a specific route in order to make their point succinctly and successfully. But My Brother the Devil’s point has been made even before it starts connecting a few too many dots, and also drawing a few more itself. But this is an engrossing watch nonetheless, due in large part to the superb performances by James Floyd and Fady Elsayed, who deliver all that is required of them and then some.
Tuesday, 19 March 2013
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Was Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom)
Was Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom)
John Hawkes (The Sessions)
John Hawkes (The Sessions)
Olivia Colman (Tyrannosaur)
Olivia Colman (Tyrannosaur)
Best Supporting Actor
Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)
Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams (The Master)
Amy Adams (The Master)
Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola (Moonrise Kingdom)
Sarah Polley (Take This Waltz)
Best Adapted Screenplay
Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)
Saturday, 16 March 2013
Feeding off a non-existent sub-genre, Beautiful Creatures aims to be The Twilight Saga 6, and pretty much succeeds. And just as Twilight endlessly milks its bland, stinky sullenness, so too does Beautiful Creatures milk its florid exuberance, which produces some eye-catching moments but a rather wayward film. Its dedication keeps it on track, but boisterous Gothic drama and timid teen romance make for awkward bedfellows. The more it succumbs to one or the other, the easier it settles. Emma Thompson and Emmy Rossum feverishly ravage their roles like they're on meth, and Jeremy Irons spits his South Carolina drawl out with a tremendous fervour; and what a treat to see Margo Martindale and Eileen Atkins in plum supporting parts. Leads Alice Englert and Alden Ehrenreich are bound by the constraints of what the target demographic demands, and attempts to imbue their characters with more singular attributes only chafe. Englert and Ehrenreich have an unforced chemistry, though, and are perpetually easy on the eye! Alas, in the end, the blatancy of this (financially failed) cash-in and the jumbled narrative and tone obliterate much of the quality to be found in this film, such as occasionally caustic humour and cool imagery. Plot holes don't help, nor does the obligatory religious undercurrent - what appears, initially, to be comic castigation of religion eventually turns out to be just a measured but irksome and condescending sponsor of it.
Thursday, 14 March 2013
Did I miss something? Here's what I saw: James Franco does a shitload of LSD and wakes up in a magical world where he meets a righteous winged monkey, a talking little china girl (oh oh oh oh!) and three drag queens, one of whom inexplicably turns green, and then he ends up re-animated as a face projected on a cloud of smoke. Right? Actors always end up bringing something of themselves to their performances (bar Meryl Streep), which is why a good casting director is a necessity if you want to ensure the success of your film. As the bogus wizard, Franco ought to be conveying unconvincing conviction, whereas he's just unconvincing, phoning in his phony portrayal of one of cinema's most famous frauds. I suppose he, like the others, was hired for aesthetic purposes, and Oz is certainly a splendid spectacle, with its beautiful sets (the Emerald City remains an Art Deco delight) and bright visual effects, although while they get the smaller details right, there's at least one 'treadmill-in-front-of-back-screen-projection' shot that provoked giggles. The three gloriously camp witches, all wigged-up with nary a hair out of place (except you, Michelle Williams - just tuck it back), are considerably more fun than Franco, especially Rachel Weisz, although when Mila Kunis makes her (spoiler alert) transformation into the Wicked Witch, it's hard to shake the fact that she looks like a sad bullied teenager and still sounds like Meg from Family Guy. It's worth it, though, for Weisz's pricelessly sincere remark: "Sister! You look hideous!" You just know this shit was written by a Pulitzer Prize winner. Sam Raimi lays the leaden-paced slapstick on heavy, and populates the supporting cast with a variety of faces of colour, as if to make up for the fact that, someday, Oz is going to become a very politically-incorrect land. And what they may lack in wealth, these peasants at least make up for in detergent. It's like RuPaul's Drag Race on crack. Or just James Franco on crack.
Tuesday, 12 March 2013
Her husband is not her patience stone. We are her patience stone. We must soak it all in, all her self-indulgent monologues and musings, all her thoughts and all her feelings. One power of the written word is that it has the ability to elevate the most hackneyed ideas and spin something artful out of them. But seeing is believing, and too often do such ideas land with a crash, bang, wallop when transferred from page to screen. The cardinal misstep? The verbosity of the screenplay, as if to disregard the ample visual language of cinema, relying solely on over-elaborate dialogue. Golshifteh Farahani is left no space to imply, to communicate with her eyes, her body language - it is all in the words she so eagerly declares. There are times when it seems as though even the most minute thoughts flitting through her mind must be vocalised - and for whom? As far as she is aware, no-one can hear her except us. Director of photography Thierry Arbogast, usually such a creative stylist, helps none, producing a drab visual palette that makes The Patience Stone as dreary a film to watch as to listen to. Farahani is an engaging lead, which is just as well, since she must carry the dead weight of this film until it snaps into life at the very end, briefly, unconvincingly, predictably, but nonetheless thankfully. She ably suggests the suffocating effect that her society and culture have on life for a woman in her unfortunate position, which is detailed in the script, but expressed in her performance. But she's almost completely at sea, in a well-intentioned but tiresome film that ought to have been much better.
Monday, 11 March 2013
You'll not be shocked to learn that Stanley Kubrick was sure on to something. Remember The Shining's iconic Steadicam shots? Now picture those in grainy, wobbly shaky-cam. I feel like a proper hypocrite criticising V/H/S for its relentless shaky-cam, since the point is that it is comprised solely of found camcorder footage, but the truth is that I just prefer this style of shooting when it serves a much more superfluous function, like in Paul Greengrass' films. Is it wrong of me, in this review, to keep bringing up better directors than those responsible for this crud? If my mind wanders, then that is surely appropriate, since it wandered through every tiresome minute of V/H/S. I recalled films where I could see what was happening, hear what was happening, care about what was happening, not know what was going to happen next. Films where the jokes were funny, the dialogue rang true, the performances were believable. Films where there wasn't the threat of gratuitous sex and violence around every corner, films where there was such a threat, and it was handled with intelligence and ingenuity. Horror films which actually scared me, rather than bored me. Films with characters older than 25, with IQs greater than 25, with non-Caucasian Americans. I also recalled films in which I had seen much of this shit before, and I recalled how much better it was that time. Is any of this too much to ask? All these directors, and all these writers, and not one of them could oblige. Before you die, you see V/H/S, and may you then embrace death with arms wide open.
Sunday, 10 March 2013
Lest one film about death shouldn't prove enough, The ABCs of Death offers 26. You could hardly accuse it of missing any opportunities. Alas, these are not so much films about death, rather than films which feature death, so you can imagine what kind of route we're on. It's a horror geek's fantasy, replete with just as much icky sex and scatological humour as blood and guts. The best thing about anthology films such as The ABCs of Death is that you know the bad ones are going to end soon and you can look forward to what's up next; at the least, these shorts are of a broad enough variety that the frequent changes of pace and style sustain your interest even when the individual segments are disappointing. And there's an impressive display of talent in several, including T (for Toilet, indeed), which is a terrifically-animated British comedy, I (for Ingrown), which is naturalistic and disquieting, and O (for Orgasm), by Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani, two Belgian directors of extraordinary ability. These shorts treat their subjects with earnestness and dedication, contrary to the shoddy execution of corny meta concepts on show in too many of the other shorts: the main offenders being F (stupid), H (odd), Q (not half as clever as they wish), W (tedious) and Z (also stupid).
Saturday, 9 March 2013
Steven Soderbergh is not a wasteful director. He's not going to give you time to reign your disbelief in. Once Side Effects has finished, you may realise you've been suspending it all this time without even noticing. But think of it from writer Scott Burns' perspective. He has worked from the end, constructing the plot as his characters have, building detail upon detail, deception upon deception. It may seem implausible from one end, but from the other, these are not extraordinary events. They're reasonable events stemmed from an extraordinary but thoroughly believable root. We're following alongside one specific lead character, learning as they learn, but I won't tell you which. It all gets wrapped up too neatly in the end, though. The final shot is cool, but Soderbergh and Burns draw their winners and losers in black and white, when I can't imagine how anyone could emerge from such a situation either wholly advantageously, or the opposite. For a film that makes no particular comment on anything beyond its own frame of vision, Side Effects is actually full of subtle details which betray Soderbergh's skill as a filmmaker, and Burns' as a writer - this is a tale of three controlling individuals, manipulating those around them, and, more importantly, the systems at their disposal. Note the pensive Rooney Mara, cerebral, her words just foils to distract people from the vast array of thoughts flickering through her mind. Note the frantic Jude Law, always playing catch-up with the girls, floundering, overly verbose, brutish in his methods of manipulation, yet less ruthless than the others. But he knows the systems best of all, if not the people. These are the details which make each shot and scene work. You'll barely notice them, if at all, because you're not supposed to. And because Steven Soderbergh won't even give you the time to notice them.
Monday, 4 March 2013
This film made me want to get drunk, have gay sex and demolish a public housing project. All in protest. Maybe a point is being made in Broken City - maybe all these cliches and soundbites and duplicate parts from other films have been assembled to make a statement. Like, this is what we're left with. There are no more original thoughts in the world. The medium of cinema is dead. Well, if the future of cinema looks at all like Broken City, then I fucking hope it is. Like all other low-rent thrillers these days, this one has a bland, stale plot jazzed up by random combinations of long words which the writer probably doesn't understand, an array of character actors taking a pay cheque, and some dud action sequences in case the target demographic was getting worried that no-one had gotten killed yet. Would that every one of this band of blockheads had been killed. The script lurches in an out of different characters, delivering spurts of plot (most of which went in one ear and out my arse), spurts of action, spurts of 'cop husband neglects wife and then resumes alcoholism when she leaves him' drama familiar to anyone over the age of six, and generous spurts of homophobia, which only sound even more encouraging when it's Mark Wahlberg speaking them! Catherine Zeta-Jones provides one lone source of enjoyment, finally back in a role that suits her, but once Marky Mark has had enough of her, then apparently so have we. I've had enough of this film, and others like it. All the principal actors in Broken City ought to have taken a long look at the script, and an even longer look at their bloated bank accounts, and respectfully (or otherwise) declined.
Sunday, 3 March 2013
And who says reality is boring? Hirokazu Koreeda captures reality in I Wish, and embraces it. He lets us people-watch for two hours, to sit and observe, and thus to appreciate the beauty of these people, and of people in general. No histrionics, no forced humour, no violence, no nudity - gosh, what a bore this ought to be! But Koreeda fills his time teasing out the subtle intricacies that define each of us, that render us all different from one another, and yet the same in all possessing such differences. Through a large ensemble, but with a particular focus on two separated brothers, what reaches our eyes and ears is no less than a meditation on the human spirit. Koreeda is not concerned with what, nor even why, but how, and what effect things have on those involved. Not actions but reactions, and thoughts, and motives, few of which are actually verbalised, all of which are intuited. We can sense how these people feel, and thereby understand why they act and react as they do, due to a screenplay that accomplishes a considerable feat - it doesn't mould its characters so much as respond to them, as if it is diving into their lives already in progress, already fully formed, and also in the process of being formed. Faultless performances, apparently devoid of self-awareness (and yet surely, in some or all cases, achieved as a result of keen awareness), are of immeasurable assistance. In his devotion to the task he is undertaking, as modest as its scale may be, and in his thorough success, Koreeda's rumination on reality is a quiet little triumph.
Saturday, 2 March 2013
There are parts of Stoker that I could gorge on. Guilty pleasures in specific scenes and images, where Park Chan-Wook's enthusiastic direction is let loose, and he tears the whole thing up, with a grand abandon. His signature offbeat style has been re-interpreted here into one that allows him to revel in these moments with great verve, in a way that is new to him. But it is also more precious, and its superfluity through the film is distracting. There comes a point, though, when I began to appreciate it. Wentworth Miller's script has no space for subtlety, but it is at this point that this is no longer its biggest issue. This new issue is best summarised by one word: 'why'? Stoker is a mystery, all tantalising hints and questions, although many of them are most adequately signposted in one form or another, diminishing much potential surprise. Miller's stab at unravelling the mystery is so extraordinarily incompetent that the film falls apart there and then, every seam coming immediately loose at the slightest touch. Existing little niggles all assemble alongside newer, larger ones, and form an itchy big rash on Stoker's pristine facade. But there remain those guilty pleasures - the acrid colour scheme (shamelessly on-the-nose), the riotous sound design, the playful opening credits (Park plays with cinematic conventions regularly - they're parts of his filmmaking fabric, and he's hardly aiming for realism), Nicole Kidman's deliciously garish ham, almost Joan Crawford-esque, the botox gradually being purged from her face, and Alden Ehrenreich, who turns a perfunctory character into a sex god. Actually, Alden Ehrenreich could turn Frankenstein into a sex god, but never mind...