Black Swan, NEDS and Tangled

Three films this weekend and certainly some variety in them. WARNING: this review contains the word “****”.

Black Swan

“I just want to be perfect.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: ballet dancers vie for the prized rôle in Swan Lake while the director bashes the audience’s brain with a marmalade-smeared herring.

Black Swan has had some impressive reviews and I believe is up for OSCARs. Darren Aranofsky isn’t exactly known for making run-of-the-mill films and this certainly isn’t a change in direction for him. Natalie Portman plays Nina, an incredibly skinny young girl and a promising ballet star, under the watchful eye of trainer Thomas (Vincent Cassel) and domineering influence of her mother (Barbara Hershey).

After landing the part of the Swan Queen, she finds herself in a confused friendship/rivalry with Lily (Mila Kunis), a more happy-go-lucky character.

That’s about as far as the regular plot goes. Leading on from this, the plot goes ever so slightly Fight Club. Only weirder.

One thing I will say – every performance is superb. the acting is simply brilliant right across the board. The story, however, just didn’t grip me. I guessed a couple of the “odder” parts before they happened so despite the twisting freakiness, I never felt surprised.

This may make me pretty unique in the film viewing world, but I just didn’t enjoy Black Swan that much. As I said, a great piece of work but just not one that grabbed me. Gill – on the other hand – loved it!

NEDS

“What the **** are you looking at, you wee ****?”

Plot: A young boy grows up in Glasgow and changes from promising student to psycho thug. Pretty much a documentary, really.

If you want hard-hitting, this is it. NEDS is brutal, unrelenting and unforgiving. In many places it’s rather uncomfortable to watch (although never quite as much as The Kid).

Conor McCarron plays John McGill, a young boy leaving primary as best-in-class and entering secondary school where expectations change from academic to thuggish. His brother’s reputation as a NED (non-educated delinquent) precedes him and other people’s expectations of how he might turn out push him towards the Dark Side.

For a bunch of amateur actors, the performances are well above par. The dialogue certainly helps gain the movie it’s 18 rating with more “*****” than a building full of senior bankers. It’s pretty violent as well, including some domestic incidents on top of the street brawls. This is not one to watch with grandma.

John’s descent seems pre-prescribed, especially once people find out where he lives and who his brother is. The message buried within certainly hinges around whether nature or nurture is at the heart of how a person turns out.

If there’s a weak point in the film, it’s the ending. After some strong incidents and emotional story, writer/director Peter Mullan doesn’t seem to know how to round things off. A shame as it spoils an otherwise excellent example of low-budget locally-made cinema.

Tangled

“Frankly, I’m too scared to ask about the frog.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Rapunzel with a PIXAR twist.

Yes, I know this isn’t a PIXAR film – it’s traditional Disney – but John Lasseter is a senior producer and it shows in the humour. Apparently this is the most expensive animated film ever made. Much as it is enjoyable, I just can’t see where the cash went. It doesn’t look much better than anything else recently. Having said that, Disney went to extraordinary lengths to create a CGI film that looked like a traditional hand-painted one. Developing new technology is always a big investment.

The story is fairly simple. After all, it’s geared at the younger audience. We took two 9 year-old girls and a 2 year-old boy (who was very well behaved!). The girls enjoyed it, but did seem to get a little bored close to the end. At 100+ minutes it’s a little longer than most animated films these days.

With some witty banter between characters, there is something there for the grown-up, too. However, the two best characters in the movie are Maximus the horse and Rapunzel’s pet chameleon – both non-speaking parts. This says a lot for the quality of the artwork.

I’m not a fan of films with spontaneous singing, so I switched off when the characters burst into song. With the exception of the performance in the grotty inn, most of the song/dance sequences don’t have much going on on-screen to while away the time.

Overall, not a classic but not too bad. As I said, though, the kids enjoyed it – and that’s the main thing.

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