Category Archives: BD/DVD Reviews

IR BD Review: PERSONAL SHOPPER [Criterion Collection]

The continuation of Kristen Stewart approaching material that is both poignant and self reflexive continues with “Personal Shopper” directed by Olivier Assayas who also directed her in her Cesar award winning performance in “Clouds Of Sils Maria”. This tome has a slightly more supernatural tone but always off screen (for the most part) and below the surface but works with Stewart’s almost retreating delivery. She almost doesn’t want to let the audience in but then in certain moments of vulnerability and poignancy lets herself go. The irony of “Personal Shopper” which Assayas wrote for Stewart is the fact that many designers want to dress her and here she plays a girl who shops for a famous celebrity and longs to wear the clothes but never takes the chance. The film does use the texting element of a unknown stalker who might be her twin, a would be murderer or possible romantic interest quite liberally. While at times a slightly lazy plot device, it intersects with the idea of being invisible in plain sight which thereby works for the progression. The final resolve, like all good films (European or otherwise), is that it leaves the viewer with a question to the nature of the lead character and her state of being (or unbeing) as it were. The interview included with Assayas speaks to the reflexive nature of what the film proposes while the Cannes press conference shows Stewart as well as fellow cast members. Again in responding to the press, Stewart both tries to stay forthcoming while protecting a little bit of the mystery for her. For that reason, the interceding paradox of the art works to admirable effect in “Personal Shopper”.

B

By Tim Wassberg

IR BD Review: STARSHIP TROOPERS – TRAITOR OF MARS [Sony Pictures Home Entertainment]

The impact of “Starship Troopers” over the years is as much a force of sheer will as in the ideas it presents. Like a novel like “Dune”, the essence of political upheaval is always cyclical. Having done interviews for the original film as well as the first of the CG offshoots, it is interesting to see the essence of creativity but also of choice in the ongoing adventures which have been helped by the increasing possibility of CG animation even on lower budgets. “Starship Trooper: Traitor Of Mars” is one of the best follow ups so far simply because of the scope and the texture of the bug attacks using an essence of Mars as a back drop. While there are throwbacks and even harks to aspects of “Total Recall” in terms of the final solution, the progression of the story and of its underdog pinnings works well in congruence with the original story. The other aspect which was undeniably drawing for me personally as a review was Dina Meyer’s character Diz from the original who didn’t survive beyond that outing. That was one of the most grounded and connective aspects in all around effective film was her and Johnny Rico’s romance. Her voice is brought back into the fold here and used to good available though storywise it is reaching quite a bit. An explanation which is slightly inferred is not brought to fruition so even leaving it open ended does nothing for the story except bridge it. This is one of the story’s strengths but obviously its shortcomings. Technically a lot of what is done (although in many ways an original Machinima type piece) is entertaining and also timely (especially with the way the Sky Marshall and sense of loss is handled. The extras which focus more on a series of interviews with Casper Van Dien (who plays Johnny Rico) as well as Ed Nuemeier (who wrote the movie screenplay as well as this outing give perspective as does interviews with the creative team in Japan. Not eye opening but definitely solidly done.

B

By Tim Wassberg

IR BD Review: THE NEON DEMON [Broad Green Pictures]

“Neon Demon” is the sort of piece that might make “Mean Girls” or “Heathers” blush but it is the texture of society to push things farther. The metaphorical styling of Nicolas Winding Refn who made his splash in “Drive” shows how the incompetence of passion melds with the human psyche. Here the beauty myth, seen in its many forms, transcends the notion of beauty to one of ambition…the texture that being almost the best isn’t enough. Elle Fanning comes into her own here playing still the young ingenue but with a naivete and blind fury of ignorance that infuriates the models around her. Refn populated the film with many models and as the ending scene attests there is a sense of retribution in its sarcasm. Fanning’s character follows a path of wanton identity but one where the backwards armpits of LA both feed and nuture her in haunting ways. Keanu Reeves, who revels at times in darker textures, add a small intention of star power but in a role that paints back his indie roots in “River’s Edge” and “My Own Private Idaho”. But as good as Fanning is at points, the movie’s heart and wretched soul below to Jena Malone who again shows her ability to stretch her boundaries. There is an Oscar winner glimpsing inside her. Jodie Foster definitely saw that in her in earlier films…a mantle somewhat taken up earlier by Kristen Stewart, who like her former beau Robert Pattinson, is not taking the big paychecks but instead pursuing more character-based work which ultimately will give them legs in the long run. The other star in addition to Winding Refn’s blood and neon-stoked aesthetic is the synth driven beauty of a score by Cliff Martinez. It truly drives the film. The commentary, although unremarkable, is Fanning’s first commentary in which she is accompanied by Winding Refn. The other feature shows an element of the thinking behind the score which again is one of the movie’s many strong points. “Neon Demon” is a dark parable of sorts and, as always, Winding Refn’s worlds, like it or not, draw one in.

B

By Tim Wassberg

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