Tag Archives: Hollywood

Movie Review: Maps to the Stars (2014)

Maps_to_the_Stars_poster

David Cronenberg is like a box of chocolates — you never know what you’re going to get.

Of his last five films, the only one I’ve yet to see is A Dangerous Method (2011). A History of Violence (2005) and Eastern Promises (2007) were fabulous, but I found Cosmopolis (2012) to be dull and pretentious. His latest effort, Maps to the Stars, is actually similar stylistically to Cosmopolis, though this time — perhaps due to the subject matter and the performances — I found the satire funny, biting and creepy, and the overall experience positively uncomfortable.

Maps to the Stars is a really strange film that defies categorisation. It’s a drama and black comedy, but also has elements of a psychological thriller and supernatural horror.  What it definitely is, however, is a scathing take on Hollywood, an acidic satire on all the excess, the pretentiousness, the opportunity-seeking, the backstabbing, the heartlessness, and above all the destructive lifestyles of America’s rich and famous. Far from the glamour we typically associate with stardom and wealth, Maps to the Stars not just brings celebrities down to our level — it pushes them below acceptable levels of decency and humanity. 

Without giving too much away, the plot revolves around two women — Agatha Weiss (Mia Wasikowska), a scarred young woman (literally, she has burn scars on her face and neck) who just made her way to Hollywood, and Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore), an aging actress hoping to land a major role as her legendary late mother. Key characters in their world include Jerome (Robert Pattinson), an aspiring actor making a living as a limo driver for the stars; rising teen actor Benjie (Evan Bird), his manager mother (Olivia Williams) and his New Age guru father (John Cusack). They are all linked in one way or another, though part of the allure of the film comes from finding out what the connections are.

The script by Bruce Wagner explores the depravity and debauchery head on, tackling taboo themes, gross-out subjects and uncomfortable scenes that will either make you squirm or prompt nervous laughter.

Like Cosmopolis, there is a surreal feel to the film. The exposition is kept to a minimum so you have to really pay attention to the dialogue or you won’t know what’s going on. Even then I still had no idea where it was heading, though it didn’t matter because I couldn’t turn away. It was at times hilarious, sometimes frightening and occasionally sickening — but always fascinating.

The performances are another reason why the film is more enjoyable than it probably should have been. Julianne Moore may have just won an Oscar for Still Alice, but I actually think she is even better here. While Havana might not be a likeable character, she definitely is authentic and comes across as painfully real, and it accentuates what a remarkable actress Moore is when you contrast this role — which reminds of what Lindsay Lohan will probably be like in 20-30 years — with her character in Still Alice.

Mia Wasikowska is also brilliant as the quirky Agatha, and Robert Pattinson does a solid job of helping us forget that he was ever Edward Cullen. The other standout for me has to be Evan Bird, who despite his weird look and body (it’s hard to tell how old he is) manages a convincing portrayal of a bratty, disrespectful, almost Bieber-like teen star. He’s hilarious.

On the whole, Maps to the Stars is a wild ride full of gasp-worthy moments. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I hope people who appreciate this type of dark humour and satire will get a kick out of it like I did.

4 stars out of 5

Stop this 3D madness!

Source: http://3dvision-blog.com

I’m so sick of watching a promising trailer for a new film, only to see in big letters at the very end, “Coming to you…in 3D”!!!

Here I go again.  I have been consistently vocal in my objection towards this current tidal wave of 3D films hitting our cinemas.  Sure, there are some movies that provide an enhanced experience in 3D — for example Avatar, or dare I even say Resident Evil: Afterlife, but ther vast majority of 3D films out there charge a hefty premium and give you a shitty time with the uncomfortable and darkening glasses and pointless 3D effects.

Worst of all, 3D films aren’t discounted at all, even on cheapo days, and even those that use movie money have to pay a few dollars extra.  For instance, if you go watch a 2D movie on cheapo Tuesday (in Australia), you can catch a film for around $10 (or less if you use movie money on any day of the week).  But if you watch the same movie in 3D, you can fork out up to $24 for an adult ($17.50 + $3.50 for 3D + $1 for Vmax + $1 for internet booking) and $19.50 for a child.  Enough said.

I thought after films like Clash of the Titans (where the 3D actually made the film worse) , the backlash against 3D will make studio execs think twice before making their latest release in 3D, but it hasn’t appeared to slow the trend at all.  According to this article from the Economist, 3D is relatively inexpensive, adding only a 10-15% to the cost of production, with a huge upside and low risk of piracy.  No wonder they’re even trying to re-release a bunch of old films in 3D to cash in.

Much of the blame of course rests with moviegoers that continue to go to 3D movies.  These days I choose 2D whenever the option is available, but I admit there have been times when I have wondered: will the 3D finally be good this time?  Needless to say, it never is.  I’m a frequent visitor to the cinema, but with a lot of people or families who only go a handful of times a year, 3D can seem like a real treat, especially if you haven’t experienced it before.  So I guess as long as people keep paying up to 240% the price of what they ought to be paying, the 3D rush will continue.

It was interesting, though, to see this New York Times article that discussed the backlash against 3D films in Hollywood.  Perhaps it is filmmakers who will take the charge to stop this 3D madness.