The Neon Demon


Viewed – 10 December 2016  Online-rental

I wasn’t the biggest fan of visionary director Nicolas Winding Refn’s last movie, Only God Forgives … a movie whilst stylistically impressive didn’t draw me in at all.  However I do consider the acclaimed Drive a bit of a cult classic.  So on a film-lover’s basis I’ll always give this guy a day in court.  This latest effort is sort of an amalgamation of influences but I suppose most closely resembles Black Swan, swapping the ballet scene for fashion.  Elle Fanning plays a young model newly arrived in Los Angeles and hoping to get discovered.  There she befriends makeup artist Ruby (Jena Malone) and gets a gig working for agency executive Christina Hendricks.  However as her angelic natural beauty starts to catch the eye of several high profile photographers and designers, she attracts the jealously of fellow models.

neon-demon

This is a striking looking movie.  Refn’s eye for beautiful / macabre imagery is perfectly suited to the subject and we get a very artistic, at times freaky but always interesting ‘experience’ that clearly borrows from the likes of David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick and to a heavy extent Dario Argento … with clear nods to Suspiria.  Add to this an equally effective soundtrack with plenty of industrial-electronic beats enhancing the images.  The plot which is fairly simple goes to some very dark, surprising places and has a stand out turn from Fanning who continues to be an actress to watch.  One of my growing faves, Jena Malone is also very good (will she live down ‘that’ scene?).  We also get an appearance from Keanu Reeves as a creepy hotel manager.  A Winding Refn movie is not for everyone I’ll add … he goes to some pretty shocking extremes here and it all gets rather messed up towards the end, as his movies usually do – but here the twist is a little bonkers and left me feeling a bit pushed out of the experience, almost like Refn was trying to shock for sake of shock rather than concluding on something all that effective or convincing.

However as a bold observation of a very superficial industry where youth and beauty are used and thrown away easily – I still found this both disturbing and intriguing … but not quite the sum of its exceptional looking ‘parts’.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Super 8


Viewed – 24 December 2011  Blu-ray

Current hot property J. J. Abrams (TVs LOST, Star Trek re-boot, Mission Impossible 3) is probably one of the most reliable director around at the moment, with obvious skill and cinematic knowledge going into everything he puts his name to.  Combine this with Producer Stephen Spielberg, and this one promises plenty.  Hyped as a throwback to eighties kids adventure movies like The Goonies and E.T. this offers up a cast of likable child actors and a small town setting that immediately feels familiar.

Set in 1979, a group of friends are making an amateur movie and witness a (very over the top) train crash during the filming of one scene.  Yet this was no freak accident and something not of this world was being transported onboard – and now its loose.  As the military step in to clean up the wreckage, the kids begin an investigation of their own whilst attempting to finish their movie.  This has a very nostalgic feel and captures the wonder of childhood innocence well, if not necessarily as timelessly as Spielberg has done in the likes of the aforementioned E.T. and even Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.  Something is missing, that much is evident, and although Abrams nails the performances and feel, the imitation of such material is probably done a touch too well, and at times feels very old-fashioned and dare I say it, clichéd.  Also what the movie is ultimately about is underwhelming, lacking that essential ‘magic’.  The child actors were all good though, and special mention should go to  Joel Courtney in the lead and Elle Fanning as his sort-of love interest.

This works however as a fun adventure movie, and perhaps unlike me if you don’t have a good knowledge of the movies this is clearly copying, then on its own merits, it’s good entertainment.  It must be said however that Abrams movie is lacking its own identity, and although things come together quite heart-warming at the end … I was left disappointed.

Verdict:  3 /5