Month: July 2016

The Neon Demon (2016)

The Neon Demon is probably the strangest film I watched in a long time, yet has left me wanting more and more. Set again in Los Angeles, the fashion scene seems worlds away to the Los Angeles discovered in Drive. 

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Nicholas Winding Refn has managed to find that divisive element again that plagued his release of Only God Forgives as it was met with cheers and jeers at Cannes. (Coincidentally, this occurred again with The Neon Demon) Over 120 minutes the film transcends various different avenues and paths that the differing women undertake. Jena Malone’s Ruby and Elle Fanning’s Jesse lead the charge whilst back-upped by the suspiciously-charming Gigi and Sarah. (Bella Heathcote and Abbey Lee, respectively) The film finds difficult and distressing scenes to encounter, actually making people leave the cinema in one certain scene. However, it couldn’t be helped as the fashion world is discovered by Jesse.

Unlike his previous films having featuring very male-orientated casts (See Drive, Only God Forgives, Bronson & Valhalla Rising) a female-heavy cast is a welcome change considering Elle Fanning’s Jesse is probably one of the most intriguing characters in recent memory. The adventure she traverses whilst Gigi and Sarah are consumed by hatred and jealously that the new kid on the block is ‘perfect’ becomes a riveting story as we see the path of destruction Jesse unknowingly treads. As the film ventures more and more into the fashion world, Jesse is consumed by her own vanity and begins to love herself – a farsight to the fresh-faced sixteen year old as she yearns for the admiration by her peers.

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One of the biggest positives of Drive was the soundtrack, so it’s unsurprising Winding-Refn has teamed up with Cliff Martinez again to create a euphoric-sounding journey again. Martinez goes to both ends of the scale creating thumpingly loud brash sounds to go along the party atmosphere, but also the mystical discovery as Jesse begins to discover herself and the Los Angeles modelling scene. Jesse’s first experience at a Los Angeles party in the midst of a red strobe light to her becoming the pride of the catwalk and finishing the show (in a scene that could be interpreted as Jesse becoming the titular ‘Neon Demon’) just show the stunning visuals that Winding-Refn produced to match the marvellous thrilling soundtrack created by Martinez.

The difficulty in this film would be to become too bogged down with the characters and the story. I feel Winding-Refn has rather created an experience to explore another side of Los Angeles, different to the one previously visited in Drive. This doesn’t necessarily mean the story is terrible, it is rather peculiar considering the elements of vanity and the film buying into horror tropes. Rather than creating a compelling story to grasp us with, Winding-Refn instead has opted for a visionary experience that stays with you after leaving the cinema. Strangely, it worked.

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It’s not often a film stays with me in the days preceding the first watch. This isn’t a bad thing, it happened with The Guest, a film I initially hated but have since grown to love. The Neon Demon managed to get under my skin, even with a basis of a story I have no care in exploring. I merely bought into the film due to enjoyment from Winding-Refn’s previous films, but ending up throughly enjoy this picture. The seemingly vacuous pettiness of the fashion proved to be the unsurprising cut-throat business it is but explored in such a way that Winding-Refn has provided a throughly enjoyable visionary experience. One thing is for sure though, I cannot wait for the next viewing of this film.

Now You See Me 2 (2016)

One year after the Four Horseman jumped off a roof in New York, Now You See Me 2 have the famed ‘Horseman’ with a new bag of tricks. ( Apart from the exception of Isla Fisher’s Henley) With the change of direction with Jon M. Chu and Lizzy Caplan taking over the role of the woman in the Four Horsemen, can the film live up to the hype the excellent Now You See Me.

After the big reveal of FBI Agent Dylan being a double-agent, he is leading the Four Horseman into their next big trick. However, John M. Cho expands on Dylan’s backstory and his relationship with magic. Even so far as to start Now You See Me 2 with Lionel Shrike attempting to break out of a safe whilst it plummets to the bottom of a river.

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Amongst this intriguing backstory, The Four Horseman, including new recruit Lula (Lizzy Caplan), are manhunted by the FBI and captured by a villainous entity showing themselves at the Horseman’s first show in a year. Now You See Me 2 embarks on a journey around the globe, as the Four Horseman try to elude the authorities and the captor in the US, then Macau and with the finale finishing in London during New Years Eve.

Much like Now You See Me, the main bulk of the film features a heist. The Four Horseman are told to steal a computer chip capable of controlling the stock markets and altering information for the aforementioned villainous entity who is Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe). The best way to describe him is he is a self-entitled, pompous spoilt rotten rich kid, but his character is played fantastically by Daniel Radcliffe.

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Radcliffe was probably the standout performer in this film due to how well he encapsulated the role. His energetic pace on screen was really enjoyable to watch and his command of the screen as he draws up his masterpiece was pure enjoyment. This is matched by Lizzy Caplan, but on the good side of the fence. She provided the comic relief side of things perfectly and looked like she had real chemistry with the rest of the Horseman on screen.

One of the biggest selling points of Now You See Me was how the heists and the ‘magic’ was played out, Jon M. Chu managed to capture this essence and bring it forth to the second instalment. The playing card/computer chip scene was fantastic watching the Horseman working in tandem in an excellently tense scene.

Walter continually refers to science as ‘real magic’ and with Morgan Freeman reprising his role of the magic debunker Thaddeus, there is an abundance of talk about seeing is believe and what the truth really is when it comes to magic. The way this all plays out, even spilling into the finale, is fantastic and works excellently for the story. However, ‘The Eye’ remains ever elusive and now with Now You See Me 3 on the horizon, it seems as though we’ll have to wait for another instalment for answers about ‘The Eye’.

Due to how the first one played out, I felt a little bit apprehensive going into the final act, as I had an inkling at what was going to happen. This is probably due to how the Four Horseman played their final magic bonanza in Now You See Me, however, this isn’t necessarily all that bad, due to the enjoyment of the build and the anticipation. Especially Jack’s (Dave Franco) and Atlas’ (Jesse Eisenberg) builds up to the finale.

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The music was queued up perfectly for Atlas’ build up and this is in keepingthroughout the film. The soundtrack worked perfectly, included a blast of Lil’ Kim as the Horseman drove through Macau and Pharrell’s Freedom as we they build toward the finale. It all slotted together in a neat little package.

Although Now You See Me was a touch under two hours, it felt fresh and not too foreboding when watching, unfortunately this cannot said for the sequel. (which they should’ve stuck with calling it Now You See Me: The Second Act) It carries the weight of the first film on its shoulders and unfortunately falters in parts. The story drags through some scenes, but the fast-paced enjoyment from other scenes more than makes up for it.

It’s an enjoyable film and although it doesn’t quite live up to the expectations (it probably wasn’t going to anyway – let’s be honest) it does make a bold statement. Bringing new members on board and featuring fresh faces as the villains make it an excellent all round watch. Coupled with the soundtrack the film is near complete, unfortunately some of the effects make it lose it’s magic.