Archive for Mia Wasikowska

Film Review: CRIMSON PEAK

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 18, 2015 by smuckyproductions

One of the most anticipated genre releases of the year, CRIMSON PEAK is a gorgeous and impassioned return to form for Guillermo del Toro. This was at the top of my list ever since rumors and stills began leaking through the Internet catacombs. And I was not disappointed.

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The story is nothing terribly original – a young woman marries a mysterious man and follows him home to a decaying mansion, which is filled with ghosts and deadly ulterior motives – but del Toro plays it out sincerely and powerfully, making sure each emotional moment hits at the right time. He’s a terrific storyteller. And with such an amazing cast – Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, and Tom Hiddleston, to name a few – the story becomes vivid. But that’s not the best part. (What also might be said is, contrary to most Gothic stories, this one does not punish or weaken its women. The female characters are the strongest ones, which is refreshing and necessary.)

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What comes as no great surprise, but is still an absolute joy, is the production and costume design. Every image of the film explodes with color and detail. It’s a deliriously beautiful homage to the master of Grand Guignol lighting Mario Bava – sickly greens, vibrant reds, and cloying blues are all used boldly¬†and to great effect. The success of these visuals is a testament to how ingenious Bava was as a filmmaker, and to see him referenced is joyous. Roger Corman also comes to mind, of course, but del Toro’s haunted house is more surreal than that.

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I don’t want to spoil too much, but the design of the ghosts was also profoundly original – it continues on del Toro’s concept from “The Devil’s Backbone,” but as if that film dropped acid. They’re polarizing, I’m sure, but I found them both fascinating and strangely terrifying. It’s rare that showing the monster can in itself be scary – usually the golden rule is to keep them in the dark – but in this case, every time they came on screen, I was frightened.

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It’s important to address, however, that del Toro did not make a horror film. This is not meant to be scary or shocking. There is violence and terror, but the main emphasis is placed on the theme of love, and the romance between the characters. So, don’t expect a traditional horror film. Del Toro himself said: this is a Gothic Romance. And that genre has been neglected of late. I am thrilled to see storylines that echo Sheridan Le Fanu and Nathaniel Hawthorne play out on screen. Del Toro is a huge nerd, just like me, and it comes through that he’s done his research.

While “Crimson Peak” certainly isn’t for everyone, it is a dream come true for people who love a classic ghost story and appreciate the beauty of cinema. Del Toro crafted this film with immense love and passion, and that shows on every frame. He loves his monsters and in turn, so does the audience. Beautiful, chilling and exhilarating, “Crimson Peak” is a macabre delight.

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Stoker (2013): Review

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2013 by smuckyproductions

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Director: Park Chan-Wook
Writer: Wentworth Miller
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode
7.5/10

“Stoker”, directed by the mastermind behind “Oldboy” and “Thirst,” generated plenty of buzz before its early March release for a number of reasons – great trailer, great cast, great crew. I was fortunate enough to see it at a pre-screening, and the experience was definitely worth the wait in line.

The film tells the dark, twisted story of the Stoker family. After India’s (Wasikowska) father dies, her uncle Charlie (Goode) comes to stay with her mother Evie (Kidman). His appearance is surrounded by strange and mysterious events, which build up to the ending that may not be exactly shocking but is certainly chilling enough. India, as Charlie brings her into his world, begins to learn what it means to be an adult (something revealed in the gorgeous opening sequence). The mystery is not shockingly unique, but it takes the tropes and uses them to the fullest extent. The suspense is high, and the twists will certainly cause goosebumps.

Watching “Stoker” is like witnessing a moving painting. Park Chan-Wook’s sumptuous style influences every shot, and he crafts each frame with the care of a sculptor. I found my breath taken away several times by the sheer beauty of the cinematography. I’m a sucker for color schemes, and “Stoker” uses them to the fullest extent, pairing pale greens, blues and yellows with rich blood-reds. The visuals evoke the perfect mix of Southern Gothic and decadence, blending together to make a crisp and engaging atmosphere. If there is one reason to see “Stoker,” it is to give your eyes a treat. I would go so far as to compare the cinematography to that of a Kubrick film.

A surprising bit of brilliance can also be found in the sound design. As India is constantly hyper-aware of everything around her, the design must pay special attention to detail, bringing out every footstep and movement of even the smallest objects. The film uses this to establish her character, and also to give the audience a sense of unease. In the more gruesome scenes, the sound design becomes downright disturbing.

The performances are wonderful as well. Wasikowska brings India to life in an almost transcendent way, and even when she’s not speaking, we know exactly what’s on her mind. Kidman is also transformed as the beautiful but rather unstable Evie. Goode can be a little too blank at points, but it works most of the time. The supporting characters are fantastic as well.

The script, however, is rather flawed – there are certain pieces of dialogue, especially in the first third of the film, that become cringe-worthy. That being said, parts of the script are kind of brilliant, particularly Evie’s monologue about parenting that is hinted at in the trailer. I find the flaws excusable, considering that it is Miller’s first effort, but it may detract from the visuals and story for some.

As a sensory experience in general, it’s hard to get any better than “Stoker.” It has its flaws, but the visual and auditory aspects are incredible. As a thriller, it works well too, building tension and delivering twists that will satisfy. The ending leaves it ambiguous, and will promote discussion, though I won’t say about what. I recommend “Stoker” for any fans of beautiful works of cinema, or anyone who just wants a good old-fashioned mystery.