Tag Archive: Tom Hiddleston

Saturday marks the day of Halloween, the time of year to engage with all things, ghastly, ghouley and frightening. One of the best ways to do so is through the numerous horror flicks that the movie world has kindly unleashed upon us. To mark the event this year, I have themed a snack-time post with my thoughts on three films which dabble in horror in their own distinct ways. One is through straight up spectral happenings, another through Gothic romance. And one by being just so a horrifically terrible movie. I’ll leave you to guess which is which.

Pan-PosterPan (Dir: Joe Wright) 

Well, what the fuck happened here? The story of Peter Pan is one which has charmed children and adults alike for over 100 years through various forms. J.M. Barries’ timeless creation of a story of a boy who refused to grow up has had many a different take, from more traditional Disney fare to a ‘What if?’ scenario in Spielberg’s Hook. A true origins tale is not one that has been translated to screen, but one does exist in Barrie’s own writing, a dark tragic tale of a boy who ran away from home, only to be replaced by another child. What it doesn’t have is white-washing, ugly visuals, Southern Captain Hooks, or a cocky little shit as its lead. Just why all that exists here is anyone’s guess.

Peter (Levi Miller) is an orphan living in an Orphanage in World War 2-era London, an institute run by the cruel Mother Barnabas (Kathy Burke). With children mysteriously disappearing, Peter soon finds out that Barnabas has made a deal with a gang of Pirates from another world, Neverland, a world in which Peter believes he may find his long lost mother (Amanda Seyfried). Once he is captured himself, Peter enters the world of Neverland to discover that he may be the prophesised saviour of the Indian tribe, driven into hiding by the dastardly Captain Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman). Teaming up with the rogueish James Hook (Garret Hedlund), Peter sets out to discover his destiny and to find out what really happened to his mother.

There is potential in delving in to the origins of Peter Pan, but quite why it proceeds in this fashion is boggling, considering there is already a version of the origins worthy of adapting. Joe Wright, who is by no means a talent-less director, shoots everything in an incredibly stage like fashion, meaning that the proceedings end up feeling cheap, tacky, and garish.

The visual effects range from competent to utterly appalling, as we stumble through noisy set piece after noisy set piece. There is the odd thrill, particularly once Peter learns to fly, but it does not compensate for the bizarre decisions made throughout. Hedlund’s performance is baffling in its Indiana Jones-lite fashion, while Rooney Mara’s controversial casting as Tiger Lily is only made worse by the fact that the character is so thinly drawn and rarely allowed to kick ass as she should, simply becoming an object of affection for Hedlund’s Hook.

The only member of the cast that seems to be in on the joke is JAckman, who crafts an entertainingly campy pirate through Blackbeard, although many of the stylistic choices attributed to him remain ill-advised (‘Teenage Spirit’ as a work song? Why? Is it post-modern? I don’t even know any-more). The young Miller delivers an incredibly forced performance, over-annunciating every line, and crafting Peter into an obnoxious, smug and irritating hero who never does anything to prove himself worthy of being a hero, he just simply has everything handed to him.

The film becomes incredibly laborious very quickly, amounting in cinematic venture to Neverland that lacks true invention or anything all that worthwhile. It may distract kids with its garish imagery, but its script that is riddled with plot holes and its lazy design which rips off everything from Pirates of the Caribbean to Avatar drown an admittedly talented cast. Nearly everyone involved in this film has proven themselves to be incredibly talented in the past, but everyone seems to have taken an off day with this one, producing one of the most arduous cinematic experiences I have had this year. Congrats Pan, you get my first one-star review of the year. 1/5  


Crimson Peak (Dir: Guillermo del Toro)

Now before you say anything, I know that this, Guillermo del Toro’s fifth English language movie as director, is not strictly a horror movie, what with it only having shades through its Gothic lashings within a dark tale of romance. Marketed as such though, Crimson Peak may disappoint those looking for much in the way of scares this Halloween. That being said, it is not without its creep-tastic imagery in the form of the ghosts which visit our heroine, budding author Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), who is swept away to a crumbling mansion on top a clay mine when she falls for the charming yet mysterious Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). Living with both her new husband and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain), Edith embarks on a dark tale that rival her own imagination.

Crimson Peak may well stand as the most ‘del Toro’ picture he has made in the English language, with much of the Gothic overtones recalling The Devil’s Backbone, and as a result is a delightfully gruesome and ravishing picture to behold. It is an utter master-class of production design, with the set designs brimming with pulsing life. Nearly every frame could be held and examined to discover more about the world in which del Toro populates his romantic characters. Allerdale Hall, the house atop the titular Crimson Peak, ripples with life, with clay seeping like blood from the walls of the hall that once held much grandeur but has since shed its life with the decline of the Sharpe name. The designs of the ghosts as well are capable of being quite terrifying when given their moment to shine, resulting in an incredibly unsettling atmosphere throughout.

Where Crimson Peak is not quite so finely tuned is within its screenplay. A great deal of time passes before we actually get to Allerdale Hall, with mystery surrounding the Sharpe’s being somewhat obviously established. While it is not afraid to delve into some dark corners, the film proceeds as you would expect, rarely pulling the rug from under your feet whilst you wonder the sumptuous halls of the Sharpe’s fallen estate.

The story maintains your interest due in large part to the design, but also due to the fine work from its three leads. Wasikowska is very much suited to this type of Daphne de Maurier Gothic heroine, leading us through the proceedings with wide eyes and a candle stick in hand. Hiddleston is suitably charming and appropriately allusive in his approach. It is Jessica Chastain that steals the show however, bubbling with a sinister spirit before truly letting rip with a gloriously mad performance in the final third.

Guillermo del Toro thankfully has once again refused to compromise to more conventional ‘horror’ techniques, allowing this film to stand firmly as a Gothic Romance, marking it as a somewhat unique text within the pantheon of modern screen horror. It is first and foremost a romance, one which becomes warped and doomed as it proceeds via the nature of its atmosphere and the dark pasts of its characters. It is a visually rich and utterly ravishing piece of cinema, a richness which should only prove more rewarding on repeat viewing. 4/5 

ParanormalParanormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (Dir: Gregory Plotkin)

 The Paranormal Activity franchise is one that I have actively supported since the first instalment came along and gave a kick start to the flailing found footage sub-genre of horror. While further instalments in the franchise have not been particularly well received on the critical spectrum, but I have found all of them to be rather affectingly diverting and frighteningly fun (with number 3 actually standing as my favourite of the franchise). Yet, however, there has always been a common issue with every instalment. While many of the episodes do enough to increase interest in the mythology of Toby the Demon, all ultimately have quite underwhelming endings as it simply leaves another loose end to be tied. Well, now, we have The Ghost Dimension, the film that promises to be the final chapter, revealing the activity in full bodied glory. Was it worth the wait and dedication? Unfortunately, not quite.

A new family becomes victim to the prophecy that looks to see the demon Toby come to full bodied life. Yet, this time, the family happen upon a camera which allows them to see the demonic presence on tape. Now they only have to find a way to stop it.

The Ghost Dimension sells itself on the notion that there is now a camera that allows the activity to be seen. While an intriguing idea, the actual execution leaves much to be desired. For starts, the camera comes very much out of nowhere, with no information given to us as to who designed it (considering it’s nowhere to be seen in any previous instalments). While this could be forgiven if the film provided some truly fresh and scary imagery with the gimmick, but sadly the cheap as chips budget aggressively shines through, presenting terrible CGI forms in amateurish 3-D.

That being said, there are moments that work. The cast of unknowns work a treat, with the child performance particularly proving effective. There are also some rather successful moments of creepiness, mostly through plays on perspective and creepy child performances. It does things very competently, as it seemingly builds to a big and intriguing climax set within the titular ‘Ghost Dimension’, yet when the film gets there, its over incredibly quickly. The film does not allow us to bask in this new and exciting realm, one thinks because of budget restrictions. It results in a film with a significant amount of build up with limited pay off in what is supposed to be the culmination of this franchise. Time wasted. 2/5 


only-lovers-left-alive1The cinema of Jim Jarmusch is not one that I am particularly familiar with. Haven only seen Broken Flowers prior to his latest feature, I did not know what to expect from a vampire love story courtesy of his creative mind. From what I can gather, he is very much a director who observes moments in an unhurried and minimalist fashion. To bring such an approach to vampires may not initially seem like the greatest prospect in the world, but within a movie business that is cluttered with God-awful visual effects driven movies about the blood-suckers, Only Lovers Left Alive proves to be both a refreshing change of pace and an engrossing love story.

The film follows the relationship of Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton), two centuries old vampires who have been married since the 1800’s. When we find them, the pair are living two different lives; Eve is living in Tangier, revelling in the local charms while receiving a steady supply of blood from fellow vampire Marlowe (John Hurt). Adam on the other hand only revels in deep depression, developing moody rock music in his desolate home in Detroit, bored with the modern society and the ‘zombies’ that occupy it. Eve decides to come and stay with Adam in the hope of giving him a new lease of life. Their relationship is compromised though with the arrival of Eve’s young sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska).only-lovers-left-alive2

Only Lovers Left Alive truly sets itself out from the crowd of vampire movies by developing an engrossing relationship between the pairing of Adam and Eve, but also in its depiction of vampirism. These creatures are blood-lusting yes, but they do what they can to ensure that they do not leave bodies in their wake, choosing to find other forms of supply before having to turn/take a life. They have also used their immortality as a chance to be as cultured as they possibly can, devouring the greatest literature, theories and musical orchestrations of human history.

Their need to quench their thirst for culture and human genius is as potent as their need for blood. Adam’s depression is as a result of being fundamentally disappointed at the human race for no longer producing work that is anywhere near the mastery of past creators. He is mourning the loss of creativity and is spiteful of the human race for no longer maintaining their potential.  Eve is much more of a free spirit and simply finds joy in the fact that they are able to continue to exist and enjoy the fruits of what once was and what is yet to be.

only-lovers-left-alive3Hiddleston and Swinton both tap into Jarmuch’s style with ease, downplaying emotions but having a clear chemistry and energy that pulls them together. They are both performers who have incredibly fascinating faces, angular and mysterious yet undeniably beautiful creatures; a quality which makes them rather apt for playing vampires.

The atmosphere of the picture envelops you in an intoxicating and provocative fashion. We are always kept intrigued by the possibilities of what could happen within the existence of these two quite wonderful creatures. Even if nothing much happens, there is a sense that not all is what it seems within the presence of these characters, which reaches its peak with the arrival Ava (a brief but entertaining performance form Wasikowska). There is also a very knowing sense of humour, elevating the film beyond the realms of Art-house cinema to something that is just that bit easier to embrace.

Aesthetically the film thrives off of its environments; the desolation of Detroit, to the sun-bleached stone of the alleyways of the Algiers. Every environment feels lived in and accentuates the fact that we are merely stepping ionly-lovers-left-alive4n to a brief moment in the existence of two characters that have lived for hundreds of years and could very well live for 100 more.

Pulsing with a dark and hypnotic soundtrack and throbbing with visual poetry and movement, Jim Jarmusch has crafted a unique picture that offers a fresh perspective on the figure of the vampire. It’s pacing and lack of definitive narrative structure may frustrate some, but for more patient viewers Only Lovers Left Alive is a rewarding and engrossing experience.

4/5- An engrossing, surprisingly witty, utterly intoxicating piece of cinema, featuring two of the coolest performances of the year so far.

Originally published at The Boar: http://theboar.org/2014/02/15/lovers-left-alive/#.Uw-ht86znKc

Thor-1Thor was by far the hardest Avenger to establish. A cosmic, God, alien, immortal being was always going a hard one to make relate-able to audience’s. Despite some weak points concerning style, Kenneth Branagh’s 2011 outing for the Asgardian Avenger proved successful, with a spot-on Chris Hemsworth and a eye-catching Tom Hiddleston proving to be chief amongst the films’ strengths. Since the release of that first outing, a huge fandom has formed around both Hemsworth and Hiddleston, down to their charm, good looks, and genuine talent. It’s amazing the amount that that fandom has grown to, over the course of only two movies. Now the time has come for the opportunity to focus more on this pairing, and truly have fun within this world that has already been established. Why then, does The Dark World seem to stumble at nearly every turn?

With the nine realms in chaos following the actions of Loki (Hiddleston) on Earth, Thor (Hemsworth) has been kept busy restoring order to the world’s he protects. All the while, physicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) has been searching for the means to reconnect with the Asgardian following their romantic encounter in New Mexico. However, her investigation leads her to unwittingly awaken a dark evil long thought gone in the form of Malekith the Accursed (Christopher Eccleston) and his army of Dark Elves. Malekith, fueled with revenge from defeat thousands of years ago, will stop at nothing to throw all of the realms into darkness through the power of an ancient force known as the Aether. With destruction inevitable, Thor turns to help in the most unlikely of forms, his incarcerated and embittered step-brother Loki. Thor-2

The problem with The Dark World is its inability to carry through with narrative promise, or to build a significant amount of tension towards a satisfying finale. There is great potential here, yet most of the interesting developments that could take place are never fully exploited. A love triangle between Thor, Jane, and Sif is drifted over as quickly as it is suggested, while Malekith never feels like a true threat due to so little time dedicated to clarifying his motives and letting the extremely talented Eccleston craft a character. Too much time is given to characters who are undeserving of it, such as Kat Denning’s Darcy and her intern Ian. Designed as ‘comic relief’ the pair are responsible for some of the most cringe-worthy moments in the movie, and simply aggravate whenever they are on the screen.

Director Alan Taylor, a regular on the likes of Game of Thrones and Mad Men, clearly revels in the darker corners of the material, relishing in the design of Malekith and his forces, as well as establishing a much more gritty and Earthy aesthetic to what Kenneth Branagh delivered back in 2011. The action feels much more real, while the weaponry design is much more organic and less sci-fi than one would expect. Yet, he seems to struggle in making everything seem cinematic. This film feels like the work of a TV director. There is an air of cheapness to the proceedings, from the rushed visual effects to the general tone, particularly in the first half hour (which feels more like an episode of Doctor Who than it does a multi-million dollar Marvel movie).

Taylor does manage to impress in a number of sequences around the middle section of the movie when the action does kick into gear and the pacing begins to charge full gallop. Basically when shit goes down. An aerial assault on Asgard hits the action beats with efficiency, and the resulting memorial scene is handled with delicacy and is Thor-3surprisingly very moving, in large part thanks to Brina Taylor’s spine-chilling score. The film also grows in strength once Thor and Loki eventually team up. The script is up to par in these moments, as the verbal sparring between the two Gods remains witty, sharp, and wholly entertaining. It is a shame then that these moments don’t last longer, as the climax stumbles over its own feet and replaces the opportunity to establish credible threat with the chance to throw in a gag or a cheesy one-liner. The horribly convenient plot developments, goofy tone and gaping plot holes destroy all sense of tension and completely negates the work done by Eccleston in at least trying to make his villain memorable.

The performances range from confident to lazy. Hemsworth proves himself worthy once again, ably carrying the film on his well formed charismatic shoulders. Likewise, Hiddleston earns his paycheck with another trickster performance, managing to captivate even when he spends most of his screen-time stuck in a prison cell. Natalie Portman seems frustrated within her role as Jane Foster, who is reverted to a mere damsel in distress. But she’s intelligent. So that makes it ok? Elsewhere, Anthony Hopkins seems incredibly bored as Odin, while it’s great to see Rene Russo given much more to do this time around as Thor’s mother, and a good does of gravitas is supplied by the man mountain that is Idris Elba.

This is the first time since Disney’s acquisition of Marvel that a film from under the Marvel Studio’s banner has been felt like it has been significantly tampered with. It is no secret that this film had a troubled production, with Thor-4re-shoots taking place as late as August, the ending in particularly feels incredibly slapped on at the last minute. Hopefully this will not be the case when The Avengers: Age of Ultron comes around in 2015. This film was directed by a man that the studio very much felt they could over-rule at any turn, Joss Whedon is the man who just made them $1.4 billion, he is in a position of power. Likewise, Iron Man 3 felt like a Shane Black movie because he is a film-maker with a distinct talent and voice, and one who would not let anyone compromise his vision. Stubbornness works wonders in the film industry. Taylor unfortunately is a director yet to establish a voice, and this film lacks a creative personality. Simply because there was no one vision. Thor: The Dark World marks the first time that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has felt like a brand and nothing more. And it also marks the first time that I have been genuinely worried about the future of this franchise.

2/5- Inconsistent and only occasionally exciting, The Dark World is a worrying disappointment that lacks the personality and screenwriting smarts of previous Marvel outings. Unworthy to say the least.