MrMarakai's Profile - Rotten Tomatoes

Want-to-See Movies

Want-to-See TV

This user has no Want to See TV selections yet.

Rating History

The Straight Story
4 days ago via Movies on iPhone

Walt Disney and David Lynch are two names that you wouldn't ordinarily expect to see involved on the same project. Disney is, of course, the leading production brand for family entertainment and Lynch's work couldn't be further from that magical and innocent material. However, that's exactly what we're looking at with The Straight Story which is a complete change of direction from the usually dark and disturbing Lynch and he proves to his naysayers that he's entirely able to construct something of a different nature altogether.

Plot: After hearing that his estranged, older brother has taken seriously ill, 73-year-old Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth) decides that he's going to put aside their differences and visit him before it's too late. Unable to drive a car or take public transport, Alvin buys himself a ride-on lawnmower and begins his long journey over hundreds of miles in the most unconventional way.

Not just in terms of the main characters' namesake, The Straight Story is exactly what it sounds like; a straight and simply told tale that's, without doubt, the most accessible film on Lynch's resumé. Those with a sound knowledge of Lynch will notice that the characters have no nefarious purposes, there's no metamorphosis, dream logic or hidden metaphors. This is an emotional and heartfelt odyssey about self-reflection, regrets and family connections and there's nothing to suggest that Lynch isn't absolutely at ease with lighter material. His film is a beautiful and poignant road trip that's full of pathos and stunningly captured landscapes.

Despite the simplicity, Lynch still can't contain his propensity for oddball characters and slightly off-key tones but it entirely works for this material. What's most strange about this story, though, is not as a result of Lynch's involvement but because it's actually based on a remarkable true story. The one thing that will draw reminders to Lynch's usual work is his love for small town America and the odd inhabitants therein. Although he keeps himself on a leash, he is still able to capture the idiosyncrasies and mannerisms of ordinary people which still adds a (albeit lesser) surrealistic flavour to the film.

Lynch is aided considerably with regular collaborators as well; Freddie Jones' sublime cinematography captures some stunning images and Angelo Badalamenti's beautiful score compliments the proceedings.
At the heart of the film, however, is a commanding and heartfelt central performance from Richard Farnsworth. Rightly Oscar nominated for his superb work, Farnsworth is the beating heart of this story - a man that has come to terms with himself and the mistakes he's made in life but still has enough left in his twilight years to right some wrongs. Sadly, Farnsworth's outstanding performance is tinged with poignancy and sadness itself as the actor died with a self inflicted gunshot wound to the head, shortly after the film's release. Apparently, he himself, was nearing the end of his life with bone cancer and took the decision to go out on his own terms - much like the character of Alvin Straight.

A wonderful and measured piece of storytelling from David Lynch. For those that can't handle his darker and more twisted films, then this is one for you. There's no denying it's charm and it's introspective reflection of life and all the challenges that come with it. This really is a pleasant, yet bittersweet journey.

Mark Walker

Inland Empire
Inland Empire (2006)
18 days ago via Movies on iPhone
½

"A dream of dark and troubling things" is how Lynch himself described his directorial debut Eraserhead in 1977. It's fitting them that his first and (so far) last film share similarities with this description. In fact, this is probably the most coherent thing you can take from INLAND EMPIRE (Lynch insists the title is capitalised). Even the marketing executives had no idea how to promote the film and, in the end, decided to punt it with the most basic of taglines: A woman in trouble. The rest is basically up the individual viewer. But make no mistake, INLAND EMPIRE lands you squarely in Lynchland.

Plot: After taking the lead in a new movie "On High in Blue Tomorrow's", Hollywood star Nikki Grace (Laura Dern) learns the script was actually filmed once before as a Polish film named "47". Her director (Jeremy Irons) informs her that the film may have been cursed as it was based on an old Gypsy folktale and led to the murder of its previous actors. Believing this to be true, Nikki's imagination takes over as she struggles with her own identity and unable to tell the difference between her new role and reality.

Known for his inventiveness and wicked sense of humour, there was a time, in Lynch's career that he adopted a particular approach to his storytelling that involved surrealism and dream logic. These approaches initially featured sparingly but they arguably became more prominent with Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me or, to a greater extent, Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive with particular attention to symbolism and metamorphosis. INLAND EMPIRE has much in common with the latter two and as difficult and perplexing as these films were, they still had answers to be found within - with some effort, their puzzles could be solved. INLAND EMPIRE, on the other hand, is a very different beast and probably the most challenging film in Lynch's oeuvre. I have to put my hands up and admit defeat. I couldn't entirely grasp what Lynch was going for here. I have ideas but eventually I had to make peace with the film and just go along with the mystery and the confusion and revel in Lynch's mastery at mood and composition.

At 3 hours long it's quite the commitment and demands the utmost concentration. This is an unforgiving film experience that will not accept anything less than a viewers full commitment and if you're not up for that, then forget it. I'd also add that this is a film that's strictly for Lynch enthusiasts. Naysayers and doubters need not apply.

Lynch's decision to shoot in low-grade digital video may put many viewers off and it has often been said that the film isn't aesthetically pleasing. It can often look grainy and out of focus but, personally, I thought his intention here was a masterstroke. It allows him to utilise his low-lighting mood and gives the film a more personal vibe with the events and characters feeling much more authentic. So much so, that it only adds to what is already a deeply disturbing and unsettling experience.

It's been admitted by Lynch that he began this movie as an experiment and over the period of three years he would film certain scenes and images before constructing a narrative. Shooting began when he didn't have a script in place but the more he shot, the more the film grew and his ideas merged into something. Many, if not all, viewers will still wonder what he has came up with as this is a film that's so abstract and surreal that it could easily be written off as self-indulgent and pretentious. You could also say, that certain scenes and events don't make sense at all and Lynch is throwing what he can at the screen just to see what sticks. There's no doubt that it's a difficult film to determine meaning from but I also find it difficult to accept that it's accidental. There's a spiritual and existential angle to the film which may or may not be about our main character being in a state of purgatory and going through some form of spiritual cleansing. There's a central theme that can just about be grasped but trying to make sense of the Rabbits sitcom (with out-of-synch laugh tracks), the prostitutes dancing The Locomotion or crazy clown faces are just some of the more bizarre inclusions.

The first hour is actually fairly coherent and easy to follow but it's in the second third that the narrative changes perspective and, quite frankly, baffles the shit the out of you. It's very difficult to keep up but this is because the time frame and the characters shift and you're left unsure as to what and whom is doing what and unable to tell the difference between fantasy and reality. At one point Dern even utters the words... "I don't know what was before or after. I don't know what happened first and it's kinda laid a mindfuck on me". Not only will you identify with this feeling but it's a reminder on how the film should be viewed. Any chance of piecing the mystery together has to be done by shuffling the events and characters and approaching the film from a non-linear perspective.

Lynch has often toyed with alternate realities, dream states and doppelgänger's and INLAND EMPIRE feels very much like the evil twin to Mulholland Drive. They share similar themes and commentaries on the nature of Hollywood and stardom but for as dark and disturbing as Mulholland Drive was, INLAND EMPIRE takes it much further. This is a truly nightmarish depiction of fractured psyche's and shattered dreams.

Like Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive, Laura Dern is front and centre and delivers an outstanding central performance. This an actress I've had a few questions about over time but there really isn't any fault in her superlative work here. She has to play around with several roles and she's entirely committed and convincing in all of them. That said, even Dern and the rest of the cast admitted that they had no idea what the film itself is about. Maybe that's the point. Lynch did, after all, admit that it was an experiment and maybe the fault lies with the viewer for thinking otherwise. In this case, I just accepted the journey as the reward.

One of the most challenging and exhausting films I've ever seen. Whether or not you make sense of it, doesn't take away from the fact that you've witnessed an artist at work and been thrust into an intriguing mystery that has the utmost refusal to be solved. If this proves to be Lynch's last film (and I sincerely hope it's not) then he bows out with the ultimate head-fuck. He's most definitely an acquired taste. If you don't like him?... You should acquire some taste.

Mark Walker

The Voices
The Voices (2015)
40 days ago via Movies on iPhone

In 2007, director Marjane Satrapi delivered the autobiographical, coming-of-age animation Persepolis. It garnered her an Oscar nomination, making her the first woman to receive a nomination in the Best animated category. Foreign language films, Chicken with Plums and The Gang of the Jotas followed after but these two films slipped under the radar. Now, though, she tackles the American market with a blackly comic, serial killer tale.

Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) is a likeable and charming factory worker who, with the help of his court-appointed psychiatrist (Jacki Weaver), plucks up the courage to ask his co-worker (Gemma Arterton) out on a date. However, when she stands him up, Jerry looks to his household pets for advice and things start to take a much more sinister turn.

I suppose I should put my hands up and express my feelings when it comes to Ryan Reynolds. To be honest, I've never been a fan. He's one of those actors that seems to rub me up the wrong way even though he hasn't done anything of particular note that would lead me to feel such disdain towards him. That's exactly why I nearly avoided this film altogether. That said, credit where it's due. Reynolds is absolutely brilliant in The Voices and he plays a huge part in making the film work. He displays a whole myriad of emotions and shows good range in doing so. He plays Jerry like the clean-cut, boy next door but it isn't before long that he shows a nervousness and social dysfunction with sadness and anger eventually culminating into a brooding danger. That's before we even get to the fact that he provides the voices to his pets which add a lot of welcome humour. His dog Bosco is an adorable docile support to him, while his cat, Mr. Whiskers is a malevolent manipulator. At first, it seems that Reynolds doing the voices of the animals is nothing more than a gimmick but there's a moment within the film where the cracks of his character appear and the voices shift from being a gimmick to a being an essential part of the plot. It makes perfect sense and transpires to be a very clever decision. Their voices could have been provided by someone else but the fact that it's Reynolds adds a very important element to the film.

Despite the macabre material, though, the film is also genuinely hilarious at times and Satrapi also uses many flamboyant touches to bring a really colourful palette to its darkness. It possesses the type of humour that wouldn't be out of place in the hands of the Coen brothers while also managing to deliver on the more twisted elements that they are known for.

This is a film that could quite easily fall prey to being tonally uneven but the script is really sharp and Satrapi's handling of the different tones are near seamless. It's an ambitious gamble from the director but it's one that she manages to pull off. What could have been an inconsistent mess turns out to be a very clever and surprisingly astute depiction of mental health and the psychological motivations behind a disturbed schizophrenic.

I have to say, I was taken aback by how good The Voices was. It seems to have gained some traction but, for the most part, this has been a hugely underrated and unappreciated little film that boasts a career best performance from Reynolds.

Mark Walker

Split
Split (2017)
46 days ago via Movies on iPhone
½

When The Sixth Sense was released in 1999, it became an instant hit and has since entered popular culture. It's director, M. Night Shyamalan, became the hot property in Hollywood and much anticipation followed his projects. However, Shyamalan has never quite reached the same level of quality. In fact, some of his films were so poorly received that he became synonymous with mediocrity or, in some cases, inspired unintentional laughter. To be fair to him, though, his ideas were always great but he just wasn't able to deliver the finished product and his latest in Split suffers a similar fate.

Plot: Three girls are kidnapped by a man and held captive in a locked room. The more they interact with their abductor, the more they realise that he assumes different personalities. Plotting their escape, they try to work out which of his personalities might actually help them while the threat of a more dominant and malevolent personality waits to surface.

The problem that has seemingly plagued Shyamalan is that his twist ending of The Sixth Sense was such a rug puller that many audiences expected the same time and time again. No film has came close but Shyamalan has never wavered on trying to deliver them. His concepts actually operate on there being a catch so, in many ways, Shyamalan has consistently set himself up to fail. The ideas behind The Village, Lady in the Water and The Happening, for example, all had massive potential but they all ended absurdly.

It's not my intention to offer spoilers here but what I will say is that Split actually ties into one of Shyamalan's earlier films. It's only at the end that you realise this and, by that, it leaves you feeling duped again with yet another ending that feels misplaced. That said, it will appeal fans to fans of Shyamalan's earlier work that have been waiting patiently for one of his particular stories to continue.

As a psychological thriller, Split has many positives going for it. It's very well shot and achieves the requisite, claustrophobic atmosphere but it's not the direction or cinematography that's the biggest positive. It's actually James McAvoy. Charged with delivering numerous characters throughout his split personality, McAvoy shows great range. He's in danger of over-acting at times, but his ability to switch from one persona to another (to another) in quick succession is very impressive indeed. To be quite frank, without McAvoy's committed performance(s) this film simply wouldn't work. The problem he faces, though, is that he's not given much to work with. The script is actually very lazy and it's a wonder that he manages to make anything of it all. His commitment to the film actually demands more of a pay-off for him but sadly he's not quite provided it.

McAvoy is the film's anchor with an absolutely meticulous display of personalities and had Shyamalan stuck to his guns and focused on the job at hand, he might have produced a solid psycho-thriller. However, it's his decision to tie this in to another genre that's feels like a cop-out. As impressive as it's delivered, it fell short for me.

Mark Walker

Don't Breathe
Don't Breathe (2016)
2 months ago via Movies on iPhone

After a series of horror shorts, director Fede Alvarez was finally given his big break into feature length filmmaking by being tasked with reworking the cult classic horror Evil Dead. This also brought the backing of the original film's director and star, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell who took producer duties. It was a huge task for Alvarez to undertake and although it worked for some, it happened to be one of the worst films I had the misfortune to see in 2013. With Don't Breathe, however, Alvarez has managed to claw back some respect.

Plot: A trio of teens, who make money breaking into people's homes, target the residence of an old blind man (Stephen Lang). The blind man isn't as helpless as he seems, though, and what should have been an easy job turns out to be fight for survival.

The premise of Don't Breathe is a simple one. And sometimes simple is best. Alvarez seems to be aware that all he has to do is set the scene and then let the thrills flow. And for the first half of the film, he does just that. This really is edge of your seat stuff and provides several moments where you take the title of the film quite literally. He doesn't waste any time in getting down to the nitty gritty and employs an effective fast pace that keeps the tension flowing with ease. This, in turn, lends the film a genuine unpredictability and makes for hugely enjoyable and claustrophobic entertainment.

However, it stretches credulity past the halfway mark and veers off into territory that almost undoes the great build-up work. What was a solid cat-and-mouse thriller, soon descends into macabre and garish horror. Needless to say, it also abandons its tight and simplistic narrative at this point and chooses, instead, to focus on ridiculous and overly convenient plot points. There's a distinct feeling that the well ran dry and Alvarez had no idea how to bring it to a satisfactory end. That said, it's well shot and Alvarez certainly handles the set-pieces very well.

Although it's been marketed as a horror - and it does have elements of this - it's more of a suspenseful thriller that's brushed past some horror tropes. If you can forgive the latter half's incongruous absurdity, then there's much to recommend it.

Mark Walker