Movie Reviews: Jennifer's Body, Taking Woodstock, and 2012

 
 

Jennifer’s Body

Director: Karyn Kusama
Starring: Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Adam Brody
In cinemas: Now

Jennifers-Body2Imagine the high school drama of Mean Girls meeting the high concept horror of The Exorcist and you’ve already got a good idea of what Jennifer’s Body is all about. The film follows the story of Megan Fox as Jennifer Chase, a small town girl sacrificed by a Satan worshipping indie band (no, seriously). Jennifer then takes on an un-life of her own, terrorising the boys of the town of Devil’s Kettle. In essence a rape-revenge morality tale, a strong feminist message of sexual empowerment runs from beginning to end. The film even opens with the cringe-inducing line, “Hell is a teenage girl”; but Jean-Paul Sartre, this is not.

From the trailers alone you could be easily forgiven for thinking Jennifer’s Body is another quirky teenage comedy more in line with Rocket Science than Resident Evil, but the film instead combines genuine horror with effortlessly brilliant comedic dialogue courtesy of Juno scribe Diablo Cody. The stripper-turned-Oscar-winner’s ear for clever teenage vernacular is easily the highlight of the film, and almost makes it worth watching.

Almost. As much as Cody’s dialogue is genuinely entertaining, it is absolutely lost on Megan Fox. This film shows us that without robots or explosions on screen to distract us from her, it quickly becomes apparent how terrible an actress she is. Granted, she fulfils her role as stock attractive female with full use of both of her talents, but that really is the extent of her performance. She comes off hugely unlikeable, even for a member of the homicidal undead. Mean Girls’ Amanda Seyfried, on the other hand, pulls off her comic turn excellently, and truly puts Fox to shame.

Jennifer’s Body is a difficult film to categorise, as times taking a tongue-in-cheek look at the horror genre rather then trying to participate in it, though there are genuine laugh out loud moments. The film does exude Cody and Kusama’s female empowerment subtext, but at the same time, Fox’s character becomes cursed because she wasn’t a virgin when she was sacrificed, which smacks more then a little of the abstinence preaching, common in inexplicably popular supernatural morality plays like Dorian Gray or Twilight.

In a nutshell: Passable supernatural horror fare. Cody’s dialogue is brilliant as ever, but unfortunately it only works for good actresses.

Jon Hozier-Byrne

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Taking Woodstock

Director: Ang Lee
Starring: Demetri Martin, Henry Goodman, Imelda Staunton
In Cinemas: Now

Taking Woodstock is a story about a man who attempts to save his parents’ failing motel by organising Woodstock to be held nearby… and there’s really not a whole lot else going on. While many moving themes are introduced with the characters such as coming of age, self-confidence or independence, they get a bit lost and forgotten about as the story progresses. It all feels a bit awkward and pointless. I spent most of the two hours wondering “where are they going with this?” Unfortunately the answer was: nowhere at all. The themes just hover and float around the film in a big trippy hippy mess.

You may be tempted to argue that a slightly meaningless series of events pretty accurately reflects Woodstock, in itself a bit of disjoined confusion. It doesn’t change the fact, though, that this film left me feeling hollow. Many of the characters are excellently written and while it was very fun to see Demitri Martin take drugs and dance around, nobody learns anything, nobody grows as a person. It’s all a little disappointing.

A notable feature of the film was the use of split-screen. At first it seemed to be a clever reflection of how hectic and confusing it must have been to organise such a huge festival at short notice but it was used over and over until it lost all effect and just became annoying. There was almost more split-screen used throughout the film than whole screen, which is fine for watching hippies frolic about but at one point there were competing conversations in each screen. Perhaps Ang Lee just didn’t want to cut any of his precious scenes and so tried to show them all concurrently. It was probably a good thing he did, because even with half the shots overlapping the film was still over two hours long and gave me a headache.

However, despite all my whinging, I did enjoy it. The individual elements of Taking Woodstock are great. There are a giggles and some genuinely heart-warming moments throughout. It’s incredibly silly and weird and I spent most of the time with a big beaming grin on my face. If you like looking at naked hippies (who doesn’t?), then this is the movie for you.

In a Nutshell: Although unfocused and meandering, very enjoyable and funny. Just don’t expect any deeper meaning.

Emer Sugrue

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2012

Director: Roland Emmerich
Starring: John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Oliver Platt
In cinemas: November 13

Ronald Emmerich already has quite a pedigree in blowing up international landmarks, as the director of Independence Day, remembered by most who saw it for the diplomatically questionable explosion of the White House. With 2012, though, Emmerich exceeds himself in both the wilful destruction of world landmarks, and in iffy politically commentary.

That’s not to say that 2012 is as lazy or as formulaic as Emmerich’s 1996 blockbuster. White House scientific advisor Adrian Helmsley (Ejiofor) learns that the sun is emitting stronger solar flares than ever, which are leading to the earth’s core melting and causing the earth’s crust to destabilise and trigger mass earthquakes – and apocalyptic tsunamis – all over the world. His megalomaniacal boss, Carl Anheuser (Platt, echoing his role as a dickhead attorney in The West Wing), takes advantage of the political chaos that ensues and is generally a prat, while struggling divorcé author Jackson Curtis (Cusack) provides the human face as he and his family struggle to escape the gaping cracks in the ground that only ever seem to get within three yards of him. Ultimately all three collide as the panicked masses of the world

2012’s special effects, it must be acknowledged, are quite extraordinary and deftly real; the sight of most of California sliding into the sea in hundred-acre chunks is present with gruesome reality. The science of the plot is a wee bit tenuous – sun gets hotter, Earth instantly falls to shit – while the political world is a humorous but somewhat misplaced satire of the real world: the Queen is seen escaping with her Corgis; the American President is black (although aged), the German Chancellor is a stuffy middle-aged woman, and the Governor of California is an Austrian hardman actor. Best of all, the Italian Prime Minister stays behind as his country goes under, to be with his people (ahem).

As a complete package, 2012 is certainly not beyond recommending; though destined to be overlooked in favour of Avatar as the cinematic event of the year, 2012 is a thoroughly engaging and thought-provoking epic about how humanity might cope should the Earth decide to evict us en masse.

In a nutshell: Predictable and formulaic in parts, terrific in others. You’ll be thankful you’re on dry land afterward.

Gavan Reilly

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