Posted in: Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, DVD, Film Reviews, Horror

Blu-ray / DVD: Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘Crimson Peak’ brings back the Gothic

CrimsonPeakGuillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak (Universal, Blu-ray, DVD) has been described, incorrectly, as Gothic horror. This is Gothic romance with notes of horror, bathed in the unreal and magical colors of a giallo and brought to life by Guillermo Del Toro’s beating heart of compassion in the face of evil.

As lush and atmospheric a film as the American cinema has created in years, Crimson Peak stars Mia Wasikowska (whose wide eyes and open face evokes the gothic heroine incarnate) as a smart, passionate American heiress, the daughter of a self-made man (Jim Beaver as the model of paternal affection and American responsibility) and a writer with a romantic streak and an unsullied innocence, and Tom Hiddleston as the dashing suitor from overseas, a handsome aristocrat with a haunted soul whose mystery captures the American’s heart. His calculating sister (Jessica Chastain), however, who dresses in blood red and death black gowns that give her the spiky presence of a predatory insect, has all the warmth of vampire. Suddenly orphaned and swept away to the desolate hinterlands of rural England, she moves into the most haunted manor you’ve ever seen in the movies, a rotting mansion that lets the snow and rain and bitter cold in through the collapsed spire of the roof and literally bleeds red through the floorboards and down the walls. That it is explained away as a geological phenomenon, the churning red clay of hill seeping into the house as it sinks into the hill, doesn’t make it any less ominous. It’s the seeping of that same clay into the winter snows that gives the hill its name.

Read More “Blu-ray / DVD: Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘Crimson Peak’ brings back the Gothic”

Posted in: by Robert Horton, Contributors, Film Reviews

Film Review: ‘Tracks’

Mia Wasikowska

Mia Wasikowska’s face, body language, and vocal delivery are in perfect harmony with the countryside that surrounds her in Tracks: human figure and landscape are equally mysterious and unforgiving. The place is the Australian desert, where in 1975 a young woman named Robyn Davidson determined she would walk the 1,700 miles from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean.

In writing a National Geographic article and subsequent best-selling book about the trek, Davidson offered little explanation for her impulse, and the movie is blunt about acknowledging that no coherent justification can be made on that score. She just needed to do it. Wasikowska’s skeptical gaze and stony delivery are ideal for this tough character, and the actress never makes a bid for likability.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Posted in: by Robert Horton, Contributors, Film Reviews

Film Review: ‘The Double’

Jesse Eisenberg and Jesse Eisenberg

In some stories about doubles, the arrival of the doppelgänger sends the protagonist into a crisis. Not so in this movie, where our hero is already decidedly cracked. Meet Simon James, played by Jesse Eisenberg, a worker drone in a dull dystopian society. Given how poorly he’s treated at work and how much he’s ignored by his dream girl Hannah (Mia Wasikowska), you might think things could not get much drearier for Simon. Well, meet James Simon, played by Jesse Eisenberg, a rakish, charming new employee—Simon’s exact physical likeness, yet an instant hit with his co-workers, boss (Wallace Shawn), and of course Hannah. Despite an initial flirtation between the two men—the look-alikes share a night on the town, and Simon uncharacteristically has a gas—the new guy cuts an increasingly sinister figure in our hero’s desperate existence.

The Double is directed by Richard Ayoade, the British actor/writer who co-starred in The Watch last year. Ayoade’s 2010 coming-of-age film Submarine showed him to be a filmmaker with clever instincts still in search of a style of his own. (Wes Anderson was undoubtedly checking his pockets after that one.)

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Posted in: Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, DVD, Film Reviews

Videodrone: ‘Stoker’

Stoker (Fox) – Hollywood is always drafting new talent from abroad, especially from thriving cinema cultures. From Mexico, we received an injection of new blood thanks to Guillermo Del Toro, Alfonso Cauron, and Alejandro González Iñárritu. Back in the nineties, it was the Hong Kong action stars on both sides of the camera, from Jackie Chan and Chow Yun-fat to John Woo and Corey Yuen.

For the past few years, South Korea has been leading the Asian wave of hit action movies, horror films, and thrillers and Hollywood has once again taken notice. 2013 marks the respective American debuts of three top South Korean directors: Kim Jee-woon (The Good, the Bad, the Weird, I Saw the Devil), who made the Arnold Schwarzenegger come-back film The Last Stand (released earlier this year on disc and reviewed here); Bong Joon-ho (The Host), whose end-of-the-world thriller Snowpiercer is due for release later this year; and Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Thirst), director of Stoker, a film that doesn’t fit within the usual genre parameters.

I like to think of Stoker as a vampire movie without a vampire. At least not in the mythic sense of the term. Mia Wasikowska is dreamy and uneasy as India Stoker, a teenage girl who is preternaturally attuned to the world and disconnected from the kids around her. Matthew Goode is creepily calm and seductive as the uncle she never even knew existed until he arrives for a funeral and stays on in the family manor (he is her Uncle Charlie, in fact, an offhanded reference to Hitchcock’s take on another dark uncle-niece relationship). Nicole Kidman is dizzy and disconnected as her weak and ineffectual mother. She seems to want to be there for her daughter, but she hardly seems present in the world at all.

Park sculpts the film, directed from an original script by Wentworth Miller, beautifully. We see the world through the heightened senses of India as she works through the loss of her father while attempting to measure this smiling, hypnotic uncle who has drifted into her life. He presents himself as her dark guardian angel, attempting to seduce India with his confidence, his power, and his violence (he seduction of the mother is more literal), but she has a more savvy understanding of the depths of his darkness.

There is blood and brutality and the icy threats under silent intimidation, but done with such elegance and eerie suggestion it feels like a dream. Park layers the film in atmosphere and texture, shuffling flashbacks and dreams into the present, all part of India’s journey to the heart of the family legacy her father always knew she would inherit. As you can guess, I was captivated by this world and by Park’s mesmerizing mix of the visceral and ethereal.

Blu-ray and DVD, the supplements on the Blu-ray release only: the featurette “An Exclusive Look: A Filmmakers Journey,” three short theatrical behind-the-scenes featurettes, a musical performance from the “Red Carpet Premiere,” and deleted scenes. The Blu-ray also includes a Digital HD UltraViolet digital copy for download and instant streaming.

Posted in: Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, DVD, Film Reviews

Sweet Jane: The new “Jane Eyre” is magnificent

Jane Eyre (Universal), the new adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s beloved Gothic romance starring Mia Wasikowska as the fiercely self-possessed governess Jane and Michael Fessbender as the darkly attractive and grimly tormented Edward Rochester, is the best kind of reminder why the classics remain alive after centuries and can be effectively remade every generation or so.

This one comes from American director Cary Fukunaga and British screenwriter Moira Buffini, both interestingly making their respective second features in an American/British co-production. The otherwise beautiful and buoyant Mia Wasikowska is amazing as the plain Jane who glows with the fire of intelligence and a sense of self-worth that the most soul-crushing abuse can’t smother. Michael Fessbender makes the most of Rochester’s grandly cinematic entrance, charging into the film and into Jane’s life with all the power of an untamed animal. The dark shadows over his spirit and the gruff edges under the moneyed manners makes him all the more seductive, which of course puts Jane on her guard even as it slowly seeps through her defenses.

Shot on wind-scoured landscape of the chilly highlands of Northern Britain, this new incarnation embraces the gothic gloom and lonely isolation of the novel but, like its stoic, strong heroine, never gives in to the darkness. It is gorgeous but never what you would call pretty. And for all of Jane’s careful social front, never letting her true feelings show through, she is forthright and true and unfailingly honest.

Continue reading at Videodrone.

For more DVD and Blu-ray releases, peruse The New Release Rack and check out the Hot Tips and Top Picks for August 16.