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My 12 for ’14: Nightcrawler and Bleeding Leads…

With 2014 coming to a close, we’re counting down our top twelve films of the year. Check back daily for the latest featured film.

One of the most compelling criticisms of Nightcrawler is that the almost obligatory comparisons to Network are all too apt; that the film has not really bothered to update its social and political commentary for the twenty-first century. In many ways, this is true. The social satire at the heart of Nightcrawler is pretty familiar at this point. Lou Bloom is a young man who talks like a living and breathing self-help book, willing to do whatever is necessary to get ahead in life. It is just the latest in a long line of searing criticism of American capitalism.

After all, Nightcrawler would make a suitable companion piece to The Drop or Snowpiercer from this year; perhaps it make an interesting double-feature with Killing Them Softly from last year. The decision to focus this tale of exploitational capitalism on the media industry means that Network becomes the obvious point of comparison for Nightcrawler – just as 2001: A Space Odyssey inevitably comes up in discussions of Interstellar. If it feels like the satire has not really been updated, that is because that satire is still largely relevant.

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That said, Nightcrawler is just a stunningly well-produced film. Writer and director Dan Gilroy brings a delightfully kenetic energy to the movie. Cinematographer Robert Elswit helps to give the film a unique style by adopting a hybrid approach to filming the movie – the daylight scenes are shot on film, while the late-night sequences are shot on digital. This helps to create a clear sense of different between the Los Angeles seen during the day and nightmarish version present by Nightcrawler after dark.

However, Nightcrawler largely belongs to Jake Gyllenhaal, who provides one of the year’s most mesmorising lead performances as a young man willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead. Whatever it takes.

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Non-Review Review: Nightcrawler

Nightcrawler features a tour de force performance from Jake Gyllenhaal.

Gyllenhaal plays Louie (“call me Lou”) Bloom, a wandering and lost soul who stalks late-night Los Angeles in search of a lucrative pay-day. He is just trying to get his foot on the ladder any way that an entrepreneurial young gentleman can – he’s introduced stealing construction supplies and scrap metal so he can sell them on, seguing effortlessly into a well-rehearsed job pitch applying for an unpaid internship.

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Bloom seems like a man who has watched people from a distance for years, almost through a filter. Gyllenhaal injects a haunting eccentricity into the character, his wide eyes and practised stillness almost edging Bloom into the uncanny valley. Though he seems to always know just what to say, there’s something distinctly inhuman about Lou Bloom. He watches people, but from the outside. He has got a pretty passable impersonation of a human being down, but there’s just something missing.

Nightcrawler is a fascinating, harrow and occasional wry look at desperation and ruthlessness – and the heady cocktail they make when blended together.

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X-Men: Mutant Massacre (Review/Retrospective)

With our month looking at Avengers comics officially over, we thought it might be fun to dig into that other iconic Marvel property, the X-Men. Join us for a month of X-Men related reviews and discussion.

Mutant Massacre represents something of a minor game changer in the world of the X-Men titles that Marvel was producing. Originally proposed by Uncanny X-Men scribe Chris Claremont as a story to be told within that title, editorial seized upon the opportunity to connect their developing line of mutant titles, having each monthly issue of Uncanny X-Men, X-Factor and The New Mutants serve as a single chapter in an expansive storyline. It really was the first X-Men crossover, setting the template for dozens to follow over the coming decades from “thematic” crossovers like Fall of the Mutants to more straight-forward examples like Inferno or X-Tinction Agenda, or even ones that came long after Claremont like Messiah Complex or Second Coming. More than that, though, Mutant Massacre demonstrated the key attributes of Claremont’s rapidly expanding universe, reintroducing a sense of uncertainty and dread into the comics.

Tearing the X-Men to pieces…

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Non-Review Review: X-Men II

I wrote in my review of the original X-Men that the first film in the saga still holds up quite well, even after a decade of superhero movies built off the back of it. It is by no means as spectacular as some of those that followed, nor is it as bad as some of those that followed. X-Men II is something similar. It wasn’t quite as revolutionary, but it did jumpstart another style of summer blockbuster, arguably a subgenre of the type sparked by the original film: the bigger and better superhero sequel.

No need to get your claws out...

No need to get your claws out...

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