An Underground Gem Everyone Has To See. Motivational Growth (2013) Review

I think Motivational Growth is almost like a modern Eraserhead. It’s a unique and strange film that deserves much more attention, there’re so many interpretations that can be extracted from it.

This independent film tells the story of Ian, a depressed man who has remained in his apartment for over a year with only Kent, his old TV, as company. After failing suicide Ian discovers a mould that has formed in his bathroom.

The mould starts talking and motivates Ian to get his life back together. However, the mould has other intentions, intentions that may become very unpleasant for Ian.

motivational-growth-pic
DAYUM.

Motivational Growth isn’t really an emotional experience but I don’t think its supposed to be. Its more like something you witness. You absorb the characters and dialogue and plot beats as they are and make your own judgment.

Now don’t get me wrong, the film isn’t so vague that it becomes a meaningless, pretentious student art-film. There are a few clear themes that I think most people can recognize.

For example, depression is a key element in the story.

At the very beginning its established that Ian is in a paralyzed state. From the monologues he delivers to the audience we learn of the quality of his life, how getting up from the sofa and going to the toilet is the highlight of his day.

If that isn’t a display of depression Ian’s apartment pretty much visualizes his state. The place is a mess; the floor, tables and sofa are covered in takeaway boxes.

Another clear theme that I think everyone can recognize and relate to is the overall, ruthless shittiness of life.

We don’t know why Ian has locked himself away but we know that he’s terrified of the outside world. In his monologues he almost justifies his isolated life. He points to the door and tells us that we could get killed out there. As he does as the mould suggests, trying to ‘improve’ his life it seems that his life just gets worse.

I won’t spoil it but I will say that Motivational Growth deserves a larger audience. People should be talking about it and sharing theories because I’ve only scratched the surface of the amount of ideas and material in the film.

Motivational Growth is a dark, funny, twisted and extraordinary film and I highly recommend it for everyone.

I give it a fantastic 8 out of 10.

Seriously. See it!!!

 

NOICE. Sandman A Game of You (1993) Review

While it’s not as good as Seasons of Mists, I think A Game of You is the best of both worlds in that it works as both a standalone story and part of a larger arc.

This fifth volume of the Sandman series centers around a woman (Barbara) re-entering her childhood dream land. She discovers that it has been conquered by an evil entity known as the ‘Cuckoo’. While she journeys through the land with a trio of odd friends, her friends in the waking world try to intervene and save her.

The main plot concerning Barbara’s journey is charmingly simple, very reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz. It’s a nice addition considering how complex most Sandman stories can be.

sandman 5 pic
Not gonna lie, I’m starting to run out of ideas for these pictures.

Morpheus is more of a supporting character in A Game of You. The story is mainly focused on a different cast of characters, all of which are beautifully diverse.

For example, Barbara made her first appearance in Doll’s House. In that volume we saw that she was mysteriously overoptimistic and jolly. In this story she has broken up with her husband, hasn’t dreamt in years and can’t remember anything about her childhood. Her life’s a wreck.

So when she enters her dream land Barbara rediscovers her optimistic childhood world and also discovers how her imagination and past led to the state she’s in today. Her backstory and the situation she’s thrown into make her a very compelling character.

Thessaly, one of Barbara’s neighbors, is another great character. She obviously knows a lot about the Cuckoo and Morpheus’ world, who or what she is is never revealed but you want to find out.

Hazel and Foxglove, the other neighbors, have a vicious conflict when Hazel reveals she slept with a man. While they come across as mostly stereotypical lesbians, their conflict elevates them from this into a decent couple who may not function well together.

Overall apart from some underdeveloped characters, the characters that are developed I think make A Game of You a strong entry in the Sandman series. I just hope that future volumes are more like Doll’s House and Season of Mists. 

I give A Game of You a strong 7 out of 10.

UPDATE: I’ve got a new video up, this one’s a Counsellor 6 which you can see right here. This’ll probably be the last video I’ll have out for a while as I’m going back to Uni this month so please check it out! In the mean time, there shouldn’t be any shortage of reviews and articles so keep an eye on Duffhood for future updates 🙂

 

Oh dear. Suicide Squad (2016) Review

Its difficult to say anything that hasn’t already been said about Suicide Squad. While I think its a mediocre film, I do have a few positive things to say about it.

For starters the film is vastly superior to Man of Steel and Batman V Superman in terms of character development.

Deadshot, for example, is a hitman struggling to maintain his relationship with his daughter. He’s shown to be a conflicted character, wanting to survive the mission so he can redeem himself in the eyes of his daughter.

Now Deadshot won’t have you tearing up, but compared to the bland characters in the previous DC films he makes Suicide Squad quite engaging.

suicide squad pic

Harley Quinn is also an interesting character. She adores the Joker and wants to be with him again, even though its quite obvious their relationship is driven by obsession and madness. She’s a tragic individual and I wanted to see more of her story.

I should say I actually didn’t mind Jared Leto’s Joker.

I can understand people’s complaints about him being inaccurate to what he is in the comics but I appreciated that he was a less conventional interpretation. I thought him being a psychopathic gangster was a good, original take on the character.

The great problem with Suicide Squad is the structure.

Like Batman V Superman there are too many characters and backstories to make a clear, emotionally-engaging narrative.

Deadshot and Harley Quinn get the most development but their stories are overshadowed by six other characters and backstories.

If a couple of subplots were cut I think the film would’ve felt a lot more defined.

Despite the cluttered structure, Suicide Squad is the best cinematic effort from DC so far and suggests that perhaps we may see a DC film that’s on par with the Marvel films…some day.

I give Suicide Squad a worthy 5 out of 10.

It Just Gets Better and Better! Sandman Season of Mists (1992) Review

Sandman Season of Mists is another great volume in the same vein as Doll’s House.

Centuries ago Morpheus fell in love with a woman called Nada. He sent her to hell for rejecting his offer of becoming his queen. During a meeting, the Endless argue that what he did was unfair.

Morpheus agrees and journeys to Hell to get Nada back. However, when he gets there he sees that Hell is changing and soon discovers that he has a larger, more delicate responsibility.

sandman 4 pic
Delicious.

One issue I had with the previous volumes was the presentation of Morpheus. I didn’t think he was very empathetic and never got challenged in any of the stories.

Season of Mists is better in this respect. Morpheus is emotionally involved in the arc, he wants to rescue his love and apologize to her.

Now I wasn’t shedding tears for Morpheus but I certainly empathised with him more than I did in the first three volumes.  

Another strength of Season of Mists is the world. We get to see a whole lot more of the Sandman universe.

We see all of the Endless; what they look like, what they represent.

We learn more about Hell; how old and vast is it, where the demons come from, the responsibilities of Lucifer.

One significant problem I had was the ending to Morpheus and Nada’s arc. I won’t spoil it but I will say that it was sudden and didn’t get as much development as I was anticipating.

Overall, the Sandman series has just been getting better and better. With a more empathetic protagonist and greater insights into it’s world, Season of Mists is another fantastic story arc.

I give Season of Mists a strong 8 out of 10.  

Pegg Gets It Right. Star Trek Beyond (2016) Review

Star Trek Beyond, in my view, is the best Trek film from the rebooted series so far.

It maintains a pretty good balance of character-driven scenes and thrilling action sequences, while wittily and subtly paying tribute to the original series.

Three years into their five-year mission, the Enterprise is attacked and the crew is forced to take refuge on an uncharted planet.They discover the attack was directed by Krall, an alien dictator searching for an ancient artifact to use as a part of a bioweapon.  With the majority of the crew held in Krall’s camp, Kirk, Spock and their small army must overthrow Krall before he can complete his bioweapon.

The story has a charming, Star Treky feel to it. Beyond is basically a new episode from the original series, with more development and budget.

Star Trek Beyond pic
So much right.

There’re no intergalactic wars or gigantic end-of-the-universe-battles, just a simple, small conflict between two fractions on a planet.

The restricted setting allows more room for character development, giving the new crew some fantastic scenes.

Kirk is smarter and more mature. He feels more of a captain and less of a student, which makes him easier to invest in.

Spock also receives some good adjustments. His relationship with Uhura gets less attention in the plot, letting Spock embark on a different, more personal arc.

This isn’t a spoiler but it is revealed that Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy) has died. Throughout the film Spock worries about his species’ mortality. He considers leaving Starfleet to continue Ambassador Spock’s work on New Vulcan.

Unlike Star Trek Into Darkness, which just shoehorned iconic quotes from The Wrath of Khan, the referencing is handled a lot better. Very much like The Force Awakens, the references are used as conversational mentions of the film’s universe, races, worlds and technology.

The only problem with the film is the villain. I thought Krall was a bit dull. He has a good motive but he isn’t fleshed out enough to be more interesting or three-dimensional.

Despite the bland villain however Star Trek Beyond transcends the first two films in terms of story, character and referencing. It’s a clever and fun journey and I recommend it.

I give Star Trek Beyond a strong 8 out of 10.

UPDATE: I’ve got another video up, this one’s got Captain Sweden in it. I thought it was about time I did something with that character. You can see the new video right here and you see original here.

 

 

Let’s Get This Over With. Ghostbusters (2016) Review

Despite the dreadful anticipation the film has gotten from the media, Ghostbusters does get a few things right but as a comedy the film is as mediocre as the trailers suggest.

This reboot sees a group of female scientists teaming up to catch a number of ghosts across New York City. They soon discover that these hauntings are linked by a mysterious criminal planning to open a vortex that will unleash an army of dead spirits.

With the Mayor against them the girls try to take on the army themselves before the spirits take over the world.

One thing the film does that the original didn’t is show the group’s growth from amateur scientists to professional exterminators.

Ghostbusters pic
Keep reading. Its not perfect.

The film starts with them just experimenting in a rented room, then developing and testing their equipment and getting a new place.

I was hoping this growth would continue through the whole film like Batman Begins, but unfortunately the arc comes to a premature conclusion within the first hour when the group suddenly get their signature uniforms, weapons and car.

The film’s antagonism is also unique. Unlike the previous films where the antagonists were simply demonic entities with an army of random spirits, the reboot’s villain is a man trying to release an army gradually.

All the ghosts in the film have a purpose. They don’t just appear at random to put the team into action, they’re attacks from a bigger threat, that gets stronger and more dangerous until the team encounters the antagonist himself.

Ghostbusters works as a decent supernatural, action film. Whether it works as a comedy however depends on your sense of humor.

If you laughed at Trainwreck or Special Correspondents or any of Judd Apatow’s stuff, then you’ll like the Ghostbusters reboot.   

For me the comedy wasn’t great. It consisted of pop culture references, sexual innuendos and awkward banter. It wasn’t a fun watch.

In conclusion the Ghostbusters reboot does succeed in differentiating itself from the original but ultimately fails as a comedy. I wouldn’t recommend it.

I give Ghostbusters a mediocre 3 out of 10.

UPDATE: I have a new article on MoviePilot which you can see right here. Its a list of 5 horror sequels that we’re all waiting to see. Check it out and see if you agree with some of the choices.

Better than the film. Carrie (1974) Review

Well, I finally read a Stephen King book and while I do have some issues with it I can definitely say that Carrie is a very effective story.

For those who’re unfamiliar with this horror classic the book tells the story of Carrie White, a high school student who, after being abused by her cruel classmates and fundamentalist mother, develops telekinetic abilities and begins to contemplate how and when to use them.

carrie pic
This is one of my many expressions of satisfaction.

One thing that surprised me about Carrie was the complexity of the characters.

Now I’m not suggesting the characters are as complex as Hamlet but the cast doesn’t simply consist of gentle, good hearted students and monstrous bullies like you’d imagine in a high school story.

The best example is Sue Snell, a girl in the popular group of the student hierarchy.

She clearly feels sorry for Carrie and desires to make her time at school better but also to maintain her position in the hierarchy.

King gives these teenagers as much depth as most adult characters get in fiction. You never think he’s looking down on them as simple hormone-driven children.

However, not all the characters are as developed.

Chris Hargensen and Billy Nolan are, for the most part, the stereotypical popular high-school couple.

Chris is vicious, immature and a spoilt daughter of a lawyer while Billy is also vicious, selfish and occasionally violent towards Chris.

These characters can be forgiven as the other characters such as Tommy Ross, Carrie’s mother and Carrie herself are so well developed and make for a gripping read.

Overall Carrie is a solid book and I recommend it.

I give it a good 7 out of 10.

UPDATE: I’ve got a new video up! Its another Metalico, you can see it right here. In this one he talks about Donald Trump….I’ll just leave it there.

 

 

This is a tough one. Sin City (2005) Review

Whether you’ll enjoy Sin City or not depends on your preferences.

Adapted from the graphic novel series Sin City is an anthology film, depicting four different neo-noir tales taking place in the same, crime-ridden city.

John Hartigan is a cop hunting a child-killer, Marv is a vigilante fighting his way through the criminal underworld to avenge his only love and Dwight is trying to protect his girlfriend from Jack, her ex-pimp.

sin city pic
The struggle was real.

I think most people are aware of the film’s distinctive visual style, its been praised for pioneering the look and feel of the comic book films that followed.

I’ll agree that the style is unique but for me it was very hit and miss.

Sometimes the style really works. The scene where Marv makes love to Goldie, the prostitute he falls in love with, is a good example.

While everything else is black and white, Goldie’s hair is yellow and the heart-shaped bed they sleep on is pure red. For me this illustrated the passion of the scene beautifully.

Other times the style was distracting. There’re many scenes where it looks painfully obvious it was shot in front of a green screen.

Overall Sin City’s style was certainly pioneering at the time and it deserves to be admired for that.

Now when looking at the film’s content and narrative the question of preference arises.

The characters are basically exaggerations of noir archetypes and they don’t undergo any dramatic changes.

If you don’t mind straightforward characters then you’ll enjoy Sin City, but if you’re like me and prefer stories with relatively layered characters then you may not find it as enjoyable.

I found the characters very un-empathetic and a bit boring which made it very difficult to follow the stories

In conclusion if you love stylistic films and extreme violence then you’ll love Sin City, but if you’re looking for something emotionally and narratively complex, I’d skip this one.

I give Sin City a decent 5 out of 10.

UPDATE: I’m on Movie Pilot! For those of you who don’t know Movie Pilot is a huge film site where people write about their favorite films and franchises. Its a bit like What Culture or Empire.

This is my first article which I posted a few weeks ago, its about what Dune (the David Lynch film) got right and why it should be more appreciated. The film is one of my all time favorites by the way!

So expect some extra content on there. Thanks! LD

I FINALLY SAW IT!!! Captain America: Civil War (2016) Review

Captain America: Civil War has plots that’re great on their own but when put together make for a slightly cluttered film.

Unlike Batman V Superman however some of the plots are very well developed.

The United Nations confronts the Avengers, accounting them for all the damage caused by their battles. The team must either agree to their new status quo or retire. Iron Man agrees, Captain America does not.

This eventually leads to the team splitting into two fractions and going to war.

Captain America Civil War
Its so good to be back in touch with the film culture.

For me one of the best plots in the film is the conflict between Iron Man and Captain America.

It’s a bit bland at first; it starts out with them simply debating the ethics of their actions, a thing we’ve seen in many superhero films and comics.

However, as the UN applies more pressure and the team investigates some mysterious terrorist attacks, their conflict becomes more intense and personal.

This makes the fight scenes emotionally engaging as well as entertaining.

Another good plot is Captain America’s struggle to protect James Barnes (The Winter Soldier).

Throughout the film everyone thinks Barnes is responsible for the attacks and want him dead. Captain America however is more rational and tries to get the truth out of Barnes, treating him with respect.

This makes Captain America quite sympathetic, you understand his frustration when he tries to show Barnes is innocent and everyone disputes it.

If Civil War featured just these two plots it would’ve been a much clearer story.

Its not as messy as Age of Ultron but all the other subplots including Black Panther’s revenge story and Spider-Man’s appearance, makes the film very difficult to follow.

In conclusion Civil War is worth seeing for Iron Man and Captain America’s stories because they are very eventful and do change the course of the MCU, its just that there’s a lot of less interesting stuff you’ll have to sit through.

I give Captain America: Civil War a decent 7 out of 10.

UPDATE: Just uploaded Mupple Film #3, a little project I’ve been working on for quite a while now.

You can see it right here. Make sure you check out the first two! Thanks.

 

WHY…. Antichrist (2009) Review

With it’s underdeveloped characters and poorly-conveyed theme Antichrist is a confusing and unpleasant experience.

After losing their son a psychiatrist takes his distraught wife to a cabin in the woods to treat her grief. As her condition worsens she becomes sexually violent to her husband and herself.

Despite the convincing performances by Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, the characters are very shallow.

antichrist pic
It looks as difficult as it is.

When we meet the couple the wife is very distraught while the husband is mostly calm as he tries to comfort her.

This is what they’re like for most of the film which makes then very difficult to empathize with.

We don’t see what life was like for them before their son died, we don’t see them happy. They don’t feel like people.

Many agree that Antichrist is about the satanic behaviour of nature, both in humanity and the natural world.

The graphic sequences in the film is apparently supposed to symbolize the evil in nature and humanity.

This theme doesn’t really emerge until half an hour into the film.

At that point the main focus is on the psychiatrist helping the wife grieve. You’d think the film was about grief. When the couple move into the woods and start talking about Satan and nature it feels like a different film.

On top of that as the film progresses the wife’s grief gets less and less attention, to the point where its never mentioned again.

I’ll admit that some of the graphic violence does work symbolically.

For example, one scene shows a baby bird getting eaten by it’s mother which is a pretty good presentation of nature’s brutality.

However, these sequences occur at random points and don’t really affect the plot or characters.

Expanding on this point entails spoilers, so for those who want to avoid I’ll write my conclusion now and you can stop reading from there.

Antichrist is certainly atmospheric and disturbing but the shallow characters and confusing thematic expression make the film very unengaging.

I give Antichrist a weak 3 out of 10.

 

Right, spoiler talk.

The best and most infamous example of the pointless violence is where the wife mutilates her genitals with a pair of scissors.

I think this is supposed to show the wife’s repulsion of humanity and women, which is a pretty extreme metaphor.

Then again, after she mutilates herself she fights her husband and is eventually strangled to death. The mutilation didn’t really change anything. She was still insane and she still wanted to attack her husband.

It could’ve occurred at any point in the third act, in the end it didn’t seem to have a major effect.