The New Demon
Nicholas Winding Refn’s stunning horror film The Neon Demon set in the world of elite modeling in Los Angeles is elegant, disgusting and riveting, a one-of-a-kind art piece and study of the human condition. Elle Fanning is a mysterious fifteen year old who shows up in LA hoping to make a living “off the pretty”. That’s an understatement considering her beauty. A trio of tall blonde, interchangeable models take her in but become increasingly jealous as her career jets ahead of theirs. They will have their revenge when she takes their jobs but they underestimate her. Keanu Reeves is chilling as the lowdown manager of the cheap Pasadena motel where she stays and figures in her nightmares. Those with sensitive stomachs this is not for you – but those of a sterner constitution will be completely immersed and fascinated / horrified. Rating 4/5
Blake Lively’s fit body, particularly her string-bikinied rear end are the visual focal points of the shark danger thriller The Shallows. An American medical student surfs – alone! – on a deserted beach in Mexico when she discovers the hard way that a shark is tailing her. Forced to wait for help on a rock a mere 200 yards from shore, there’s little hope of a good outcome except for the shark. She’s dehydrated, sunburnt and starving and one day turns into another, her only companion, a seagull. She experiences and sees things no one should have to. Her iron will kicks in and she decides to fight back. Despite the action, the film is strangely inert, ridiculous and clearly a means of showcasing Lively’s superb body and flowing Botticelli-an tresses in artistic poses on that rock. A real bust. Rating: 2 / 5
The Free State of Jones
Matthew McConaughay is Newton Knight, a relatively unknown but heroic figure in American Civil War history. Knight gathered a group of Mississippi farmers, deserters and runaway slaves to stage a rebellion against the Confederacy and create The Free State of Jones. It was a movement borne out of a general distaste for war and killing and subservience to a corrupt army. Interestingly, the film was shot in some of the actual locations where events took place. The film raises a lot of historic issues, too many, sending the runtime to 2.5 hours. A little judicious editing and fewer offshoots would have helped. Still it’s interesting with insights into a long gone, separate and independent and colour-blind country that once existed in the Deep South. Rating: 3/5
Did you know that Competitive Endurance Tickling is a thing? I had no clue and was aghast at this sleazy, secret online world and how it is run. A team of documentary filmmakers from New Zealand set out to the US to find the woman in charge of the online business. Former ticklers and tickle-ees say their lives were ruined by their appearances on line but had zero legal recourse. The filmmakers uncovered an ugly nest of abuse, humiliation, litigation and death threats. As they begin to zero in on the company the filmmakers’ lives are turned upside down and it morphs into a cat-and-mouse game. Tickled has the full weight and drama of a thriller. Rating 3/5
Independence Day: Resurgence
Independence Day: Resurgence with Jeff Goldblum and Liam Hemsworth was not screened for the media which does not bode well for its quality. Some original stars return including Jeff Goldblum with added youth quake sizzle in Liam Hemsworth. Its twenty years since the alien invasion and another is coming! But they have an advantage this time – they found high tech gear left behind by the aliens last time. But don’t hold your breath for this one, although I never mind watching the smart Goldblum in anything. Rating – I have my doubts.