Showing posts with label John Hawkes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label John Hawkes. Show all posts

Saturday, 26 January 2013


Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln takes a small chunk of Abraham Lincoln’s remarkable life and brings to the big screen a momentous moment in American history. Set in the early months of 1865 with the Civil War still raging after four years, US President Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis), fresh off the back of a second election win is trying to pass the 13th Amendment to the Constitution which will abolish slavery for good from the United States. The issue, which was one of the reasons America became divided in the first place is just as divisive in the House of Representatives where Lincoln and his Republican Party need a two-thirds majority for the Amendment to pass. Through rhetoric, barter, pleading and persistence, Lincoln and his staff try to sway the votes of twenty lame duck Democrats before the session comes to a close.

Lincoln is a fascinating film which treats its audience as intellectual equals and doesn’t shy away from long passages of legal and political spiel. Having studied Politics and University and with an interest in the American Civil War, the film was always going to grab my attention but even those who know little of the period will find some interest in the deeply woven script and fantastic performances.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

From Dusk till Dawn

Quentin Tarantino scripted and Directed by Robert Rodriguez, From Dusk till Dawn is a genre mashing, deeply violent, sometimes funny crime-horror-drama-comedy that pulls you close with a left jab before knocking you unconscious with a right hook. Two bank robbing brothers (George Clooney & Quentin Tarantino) are on the run in Texas, heading to the Mexican border. Along the way they take a Preacher (Harvey Keitel) and his children (Juliette Lewis & Ernest Liu) hostage in their RV. Once in Mexico the criminals head to a bar where they wait out the night for their connection to take them to a safe house. The bar turns into a blood bath though as the robbers and their captives’ battle to survive an onslaught from ravenous vampires.

Famous for its violence, unusual script and Salma Hayek’s toe whiskey, From Dusk till Dawn is a fast faced, comedic horror which takes the audience by surprise following a Tarantino-esque opening forty-five minutes. Its use of animatronics and physical effects also takes it back to the 1980s and before the use of computer generated special effects. Rodriguez combines the two methods to create some realistic looking creatures but always maintains a slapstick element to the effects and comedy.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Martha Marcy May Marlene

If anyone ever writes a book of the worst film titles in history, Martha Marcy May Marlene will be sure to feature. This is a great shame as the film itself is fantastic.

Featuring Elizabeth Olsen in a breakout role, the film cuts between Martha’s (Olsen) time as a cult member and after fleeing, her stay with her older sister and brother-in-law. The scenes of Martha in the cult are often dark and chilling. She is degraded and abused but seems powerless to resist what is happening. Later, we watch as she is in the cult’s inner circle and now the one who is doing the abusing. While with her sister, Martha is distant, confused and scared. She often doesn’t know how to act around ‘normal’ people and this results in inappropriate and odd behaviour. Martha is obviously deeply traumatised by her time with the cult and becomes increasingly paranoid that they are still watching her and waiting to take her back.  

Martha feels uncomfortable back, in the real world

Olsen’s central performance is outstanding. Innocent and awkward yet beautiful, she is thoroughly believable as the sort of young girl who could get caught up in a cult. She is also excellent while back in normal society, playing a young woman who is trying to forget what she has been a part of. Her performance is the highlight of the film. John Hawkes who plays cult leader, Patrick, is also fantastic. He is domineering and powerful yet has an air of attraction about him. You can feel and understand why the young men and women are drawn to him and kept under his spell. His is a performance that should also draw great plaudits.

Martha under Patrick's spell

There are two disappointing things about this otherwise exceptional film. The first is the title. I spent the whole film trying to remember what it was called and it left a nagging feeling in the back of my mind throughout. I went through all the female names I could think of beginning with ‘M’ and tried combining them. ‘Is it Mary Martha Maud Marlene? Mia Michelle Margaret May? It became very frustrating! My second problem is the ending. The film builds up ninety minutes of tension and just as it reaches a crescendo, ends. This was a shame as it kind of left the audience hanging. I understand that sometimes a film wants to leave the ending up to the interpretation of its audience but I didn’t think it worked this time. It wasn’t The Sopranos.

Apart from those two, admittedly small problems, Martha Marcy May Marlene (is that right?) is a wonderful film with a fantastic central performance from Elizabeth Olsen, who we are sure to see much more of in the future.