Under The Skin

Yow. Ser.

So yes, as per the film synopsis, Scarlett Johansson is an alien prowling the streets of Glasgow in a white transit van.

While that is truly as odd as it sounds, she also does an incredible job of engaging passers-by in small-talk so that they have no clue what is in store for them, with an excellent English accent.

The whole tone of the film is mysterious and other-wordly, and I’m not sure I ever really understood who she was and why she was doing what she did in the first part of the film, but that didn’t matter a bit. The second part was interesting in other ways, as she begins to try to understand the world into which she’s been operating.

Unlike the half-dozen people who walked out after 20 minutes or so, I was totally mesmerised by the film from start to finish.  It’s beautiful, strange and seductive, with a top-notch performance from Scarlett Johansson.  And huge appreciation for an absolutely amazing soundtrack – spooky and atmospheric – at one point I realised I was breathing in time with it!  Click the link to listen.

And the really spooky thing?  For the next two days, walking or driving in crowded areas, I found myself looking at people through the eyes of Scarlett’s alien. Fascinating.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

First time in my life I have ever been to a big premier (albeit a regional one), so that means I have seen a film a whole week before it is on general release!

On the one hand, this is your usual Marvel romp, with heroes fighting villains and good triumphing over evil.

On the other hand, it is a bit of a departure from previous Marvel fare.

Cap is an interesting character. Of all the Avengers, he’s the most like us – he knows what it’s like to feel overlooked and powerless, and was chosen for his role because he would never abuse any superiority he obtained. That’s also the weak point of his stories though – story writers have to work hard to match the pizzaz of Iron Man or the power of Thor.

And so this storyline is actually a bit of a political thriller wrapped up in a superhero costume, and works well. Captain Steve Rogers finds himself in a situation where he doesn’t know who he can trust, and has to make some difficult decisions. The plot covers questions about national security, surveillance and justifications for war, and although it only scratches the surface, it’s an interesting direction.

It was good to see Nick Fury getting a little more screen time, and Falcon was great fun with some excellent flying scenes and a warm and engaging performance.

Interestingly though, the Winter Soldier of the title is absent for huge chunks of the film, and is definitely an opportunity missed. There are also moments when the number of commuters and passers-by getting caught in the crossfire is just too much, and not something I would have anticipated in Cap’s world.

I love Chris Evans in this role – there is incredible sadness and loss in the character, yet an unswerving sense of duty to do the right thing for the right reason, in difficult circumstances.

I adored the touching bedside scene (no spoilers, but happy to discuss once you’ve seen it!) and am desperate to find a screen shot of Cap’s list (I had enough time to read three items but want to know the rest).

Quite frankly, a proper hero.

Nymphomaniac Vol I and II

Although these are now being shown as two separate films in cinemas, actually there is no resolution at the end of the first ‘volume’, merely a loo break.

I have a lot of sympathy for Lars von Trier. I believe he is a highly gifted film maker with a lot of inner demons, which he tries to work through via his films. Sometimes this works better than others.

On this occasion, I think it missed the mark.

Is he trying to say that he feels his depression is due to the fact that his mother didn’t show him enough love? Is he trying to punish himself for what he thinks of as his short-comings by ‘punishing’ the lead character (who represents Lars) on screen? Physical extremes aside, there is so much going on (fly fishing, Fibonacci numbers, fugues) that only half-fits together, like there was just too much for Lars to hold on to and it wouldn’t all mesh together.

As ever, some fabulous music choices, but I much prefer Melancholia.

Only Lovers Left Alive

Style over substance, sorry to say.

Tom Hiddlestone and Tilda Swinton look like the hippest vampires ever, and there is that sense of ennui which must exist when you have been around for 600 or so years.

But the thing is, there are huge chunks of the film where nothing really happens. I get life (or being un-dead) is generally like that, but I go to the cinema to get away from it, not watch it for 90 minutes.

So this did not live up to expectations.

Her

Separated Man buys Operating System. Man and Operating System begin to form a deep relationship. No-one bats an eyelid.

And that last bit is what makes this such a lovely film.

The near-future setting is close enough to reality to make it all seem eminently possible, and it’s not an oppressive future – it’s bright, friendly, and beautifully shot. The inhabitants of this world are accustomed to interacting constantly with technology, to such an extent that our hero makes a living from crafting beautiful handwritten letters for customers who don’t feel they know how to write them for themselves.

Joaquin Phoenix is remarkable, when you take into account that he is acting against a disembodied voice for most of the time. His character is flawed, yes, but also funny and sweet and very likeable.

One of the first films in a long time that I am looking forward to seeing again.