Wild Review

Preface

Wild is probably the most recent film release on the retro release list at the time of writing. My brother managed to see this film long before me, and constantly pestered me to watch it. Eventually I got a DVD copy, and now I can review it.

Review

Wild stars Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern and Thomas Sadoski with Jean-Marc Vallee directing. Wild follows the real life story of Cheryl Strayed (Witherspoon) as she treks the 1100 mile long Pacific Crest Trail to heal herself from earlier traumatic experiences.

Wild looks breathtaking. I feel like I’ve been saying that for most films that I watch recently, but every time it’s true, and Wild is no different. With over 1000 miles of the west coast of America being our backdrop, Wild takes us through deserts, dense forests and snowy mountains, and all of it is mesmerising. The scenery almost makes me want to start trekking, just so I can see for myself the stunning landscapes that are presented to us.

The acting done by all is top notch. Reese Witherspoon is able to convey so much just through scenes if her walking in the environments, her movements tell us all we need to know. Her scream that starts the film tells us that what we are about to watch is going to be mad, and soon enough Wild is off to a flying start. We say hello once again to Laura Dern after her three films in the David Lynch Collection, and here in Wild she is still superb. It is a shame that neither of the women managed to win any awards for their acting, despite being nominated several times.

Be warned though, Wild pushes it’s 15 certification like no other film I’ve seen. I feel the censors must be getting more relaxed about the level of material that gets into films nowadays, because Wild is full of the stuff that would have garnered an 18 a while back. Graphic sex, constant swear words and drug taking are wall-to-wall here, meaning this is not one for the younger audience. Even some of topics of conversation and actions will put off some viewers, with domestic abuse, abortions and childhood trauma all being explored within the film. There is even some body horror thrown in where Cheryl checks her feet to see her toenails coming off, a scene that made me squirm in my seat. You will have to brace yourself for all of these if you want to watch Wild.

The story switches between Strayed trekking through the wild and back to her childhood and early adult life, where we get to see the scenes that make her go on the journey of self-healing. From the scenes conjured up by the film, it’s a life of fleeting joy and harrowing sadness and helplessness, with many standout moments that will stay with you long after you’ve finished the film. It’s a film that shows the worst possible scenarios that a human can experience playing out over and over again, before pulling you back to the trekking story before it loses you in its own sadness and despair. It’s dark and mature and doesn’t pull any punches in the story that it ultimately wants to tell.

Even though the run time scrapes at the two hour mark, it never feels bloated or feels like it’s had stuff removed. Every scene has been carefully thought out, adding new bits of information about Strayed or her past. This means the film works as a giant jigsaw, with every scene adding up to greater picture. If even one scene were cut we would lose a valuable bit of information about a character or a scene, meaning the film wouldn’t reach the heights that it does.

In conclusion, Wild is not for the faint of heart. The content will drive away a fair few, but for those that can stomach it, you will find one of the greatest films of 2015.

Score: 10/10 Brilliant, beautiful and brutal, not one to be missed.

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David Lynch Collection Review

Preface

This review has been a while in the making. I first teased this collection on my Twitter feed nearly a full month ago, but I finally thought I should start now, after finishing the last film I wanted to feature on this list. This collection review will work much like my Bruce Lee one, yet this time focussing on the director David Lynch.

I love David Lynch. I believe he is one of the best directors alive today, with his creation of epic-spanning surrealist nightmares and non-linear narratives getting him both lauded and criticised in the film world. The seven films I chose for this review are:

  • Dune
  • Eraserhead
  • Blue Velvet
  • Lost Highway
  • Mulholland Drive
  • Inland Empire
  • Wild At Heart

A brief warning, nearly all of these films contain copious amounts of swearing, violence, nudity, and a few contain some of the most unsettling and foreboding moments in cinema. Watch them at your own discretion.

Dune

Lynch’s first big-budget studio film, Dune is an adaptation of Frank Herbert’s epic science fiction novel of the same name. Featuring Lynch regular Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Atreides, a son of the Duke of Atreides, one of the several warring partners in the empire of space. The film focuses on the struggle over the planet Dune, which is rich in the spice required for interstellar travel. Featuring a vast array of talented actors, Dune also features some impressive miniature work, with Herbert’s giant Sandworm being a standout attraction. Also be on the lookout for Lynch’s cameo and the soundtrack composed by Toto.

Score: 8/10 It’s a bit like Game of Thrones in space.

Eraserhead

Lynch’s first feature film, and one that is made of nightmares. Eraserhead is about a man named Henry (played by another Lynch regular Jack Nance), who after his wife gives birth to a deformed mutant, leaves him and the new baby to fend for themselves in the post-apocalyptic dystopia. Shot in stark black and white, this is the start of Lynch’s surrealist imagery, with stop-motion chicken breasts, gruesome body horror, and a chilling song with the famous Lynch line, “In heaven, everything is fine.” The constant crying of Henry’s child is laced throughout the film, making the film one of the most disturbing of the bunch.

Score: 7/10 Not one to watch before you go to sleep

Blue Velvet

Probably the sanest and easily to follow of the film on this list. Kyle MacLachlan returns again, this time playing Jeffrey Beaumont, who returns home after his father is hospitalised. While on a walk, Jeffrey discovers a severed ear in a field, and starts his own investigation into the mystery, when the police go nowhere with the case. Dennis Hopper’s portrayal of sadistic criminal Frank Booth is one of the most memorable villains within cinema history, while Isabella Rossellini portrayal of his abused plaything Dorothy is unnerving. Video game fans will get a kick out of several scenes within the film that were recreated in Silent Hill 2.

Score 10/10 Lynch’s best film by far.

Lost Highway

A twisting narrative of parallel lives and invasions of privacy, Lost Highway features Bill Pullman as jazz musician Fred, who keeps receiving tapes of him sleeping in is bed. Again featuring an all star cast, with an unnerving performance by Robert Blake as the Mystery Man, Lost Highway has some of the more frightening flashes of Lynch’s filmography, (viscerally similar to the hells scenes from Event Horizon), yet stumbles around the halfway mark with some rather boring story points. In the end it all comes together, but this one you might need to read several internet theories to eventually get.

Score: 5/10 Visceral and unsettling in places, but it’s not one of Lynch’s greatest works.

Mulholland Drive

After an attempted assassination/car crash on the eponymous street, a woman called Rita (Played by Laura Harring) is left with amnesia. She stumbles across aspiring actress Diane (played by Naomi Watts) and together the two set off to find what actually happened to Rita on Mulholland Drive. With several Lynch cast alumni featuring, along with an odd bit of casting in the form of Billy Ray Cyrus, Mulholland Drive is a brainteaser that answers more and more questions with each repeat viewing, with everything drenched in symbolism. With several startling moments and foreboding imagery, it’s a feast for the senses.

Score 10/10 This is one you’ll keep coming back to.

Inland Empire

Lynch’s most recent work and also his longest, at just under three hours. Inland Empire could be considered a very loose adaptation of anime classic Perfect Blue, with Laura Dern playing actress Susan, who while filming her latest film starts to lose her grip on reality. The closest thing to a horror movie that Lynch has created, with several scenes making me jump out of my seat with fright, Inland Empire has many of Lynch’s scariest moments. The three hour run time might be a bit too long for some, along with the meandering story, which feels like it’s about to end before going on for an extra half an hour. Plow through it though and you’ll have some of the most frightening and surreal images ever committed to film burned into your psyche forever. Stick around for the credits and you’ll be treated to nearly all the cast singing and dancing to Nina Simone’s Sinnerman.

Score: 6/10 The run time kicks the legs out from Inland Empire, but it is still a clever and enjoyable (in a horror way) film.

Wild At Heart

A romantic/crime road trip based on the novel of the same name, featuring Nicolas Cage as Sailor and Laura Dern (again) as Lula. While some of the subject matter discussed and shown, including, childhood abuse, murder, shotgun injuries and a ridiculous amount of sex can be off-putting to several audience members, what is left is a darkly funny script about two people who are in love. Nicolas Cage is as crazy as usual, and extra praise should be given to the bad guy Bobby, played by Willem Dafoe, who exudes menace. Throw in a superb rock and roll soundtrack, and you got yourself a pretty good movie.

Score: 9/10 A fun neo-noir thrill ride.