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Personal Shopper (2016)

Paranormal Activity: The Paris Poltergeist

Not unlike a Jean Rollin film, notwithstanding the budget and talent involved, Personal Shopper follows the steps of Demonlover, Assayas’ own Necronomicon, in its disgust of genre movie even though everything he has to say boils down to that French gore movie he doesn’t have the guts to film. That’s too bad, because such a movie would truly be something to behold.

An horror movie which doesn’t dare to speak its name, Personal Shopper is either a good film or a terrible one, depending on one’s perspective. Positing Kirsten Steward (positing as good) as the empty vessel prompting the movie ahead by doing shopping for someone else and being bored to bits in the process, the movie is as interesting as a brilliantly filmed Whatsapp chat not for you to read in the first place. “Life sucks” (Salome, 15yo).

Women fashion, see, is a realm of its own, which men as Refn in The Neon Demon or Assayas here are tempted to use as backdrop for their male fantasies, one for exhibition angst and the other for existentialist whatever. Still, here we revert to Marlene Dietrich as the high priestess of haute couture/camp in a reluctant makeover scene which feels hopelessly dated unless, confessing something far beyond the viewer’s interest, it is simply masturbatory in nature. It goes, one guesses, with the territory of winning the Cannes Prix de la Mise en Scène.

Some Cours Florent alumni attempts to quote Victor Hugo in some you-wish-had-been-deleted-scene, and there you are left stranded, in some Nouvelle Vague version of Suspiria. It’s impeccably made, sure, but it has everything one has learnt to dread about French author cinema: high on itself, lost on subject, and complacent on paleography.

A glossy film on an opaque topic, Personal Shopper ends (or not) on a Paranormal Activity note, thus coming clean about its limited appeal: this is, ladies and gentlemen, a contemporary take on haunting, vampirism and death-by-shopping, brilliantly lensed by an aging cinematographer in search for relevance in a subject-matter which he has no affinity with. Frankly Olivier, you were already struggling with Demonlover, and that was 15 years ago. You should learn from your mistakes.

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Knock Knock

Who’s there, useless to most but funny for some, we hope?

A lot of things one watched in the past months, leading to some sort of ophtalmic occlusion. There was a point reviewing seemed as useless as regurgitating stuff over and over again, to the point it would become the cliché it was supposed to expose as such.

Still, a few movies and series got to one’s head and the feeling it was worth writing about the daily entertainment tsunami we face was reborn. Boom, there it was.

So here we are, with a leaner, meaner structure and some new ideas we’re excited to share. Whoever read this, thank you. Please stay tuned.

And remember: any show is a freak show.

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The Young Pope #6

The Number Of The Beast

Opening on a startling death in the Curia refectory, witnessed by indifferent fellow cardinals, this episode, once has been established Pope Pius’ plan on destroying the Church (the What), lays the groundwork for his modus operandi (the How) and starts shedding some conflicting lights on his motivation to do so (the Why). “What did he die of?” asks a cardinal, still masticating his lunch. “Of old age, like our Church.” comes the answer.

Sorrentino then alternates between three highly symbolic scenes, so complementary in their purpose that you can positively hear him giggle on the back of the soundrack: the elevation of faithfull Bishop Guttierez to the rank of cardinal; Esther giving birth to her baby boy; and a crude glimpse on what Cardinal Dussolier is up to in Honduras, namely having a parting threesome with his two favorite members on his flock, the wife of the richest man in town and a muscular young man. The fact that Dussolier is the meat of this particular sandwich doesn’t augure well to his future in Roma, where he has been ordered to come back.

In starck contrast with the assembled Curia, the pope wears green for Guttierez ordination, but he’s back to Holy white when he visits Esther at the hospital. She has decided to name the boy after him, so the Pope blesses “Pius the Fourteen” before dropping him on the bed when he’s reminded that the Italian Prime Minister is waiting for him at the Vatican. It’s not directorial giggles you hear then, it’s the sound of your laughter: enjoy it while it last because what follows is all but funny.

The meeting with the young, handsome Prime Minister is more of a pissing contest than a courtesy visit. In full golden regalia, the Pope presents a list of request to the Head of Government, every one more outrageusement then the other. Pius XIII wants to put a term to abortion, to homosexual marriage, to sexual depravity within the Church, and as a cherry on the Holy Cake he wants the Vatican territory to be renegociated. The Prime Minister laughs at this delirious laundry list, only to be reminded that if he has been elected by men, the Pope has been elected by God. The Holy Father then threatens not only to reactivate an obsolete “Non Expedit” disposition, forbidding Catholics to vote at election time, but to appear for the first time on St Peter square to enforce its application, a media event like no other in modern history.

The How has become clear at this point: the Pope considers himself the second advent of Christ and he won’t compromise in any way. Franciscan monks alluding to a schism of their order become the object of his fury. Voiello laments about the drooling revenues of the Papal State, to no avail, but has a more urgent fish to fry when a police officer asks about a missing shepherd who happened to be in open conflict with the Vatican. Last but not least, Cardinal Dussolier definitely has a thing for both middle-aged women with expensive cosmetic surgery and altar boys; if the formers’ fate are left to the imagination – or the next episode – the latters are definitely in peril, since one throws himself from the roof of the basilica after his apllication for priesthood has been rejected on the grounds or his homosexuality. The Beast is unleashed, and his number is XIII…

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The Great Wall (2017)

The Great WTF

It feels weird, following our last week 2016 wrap up, that our first 2017 movie has such a solid chance to also be this year’s worst. The Great Wall is truly dumbfounding, and the only thing it shares with its titular wonder of the world is a monumental scale – of stupidity and ugliness. Some movies truly are beyond any word or philosophy: they just happen for undecipherable reasons, like an earthquake, the killing spree of a mass murderer or a flood. Call it an act of God if you must, something He would send His followers to test their faith. Yes, it’s that bad. And oh, it’s actually worse.

Matt Damon plays (if what he does here still qualifies as such) a mercenary on the quest for black powder. His crew has no map, no medicine, no food. They do not have a script, either, so they basically walk forth until they bump on the Great Wall. That’s when you remember that Yang Zimou directed the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony before this, for Chinese troops are colour-coordinated and all too eager to give a Cirque du Soleil performance under Power Rangers management. But first, Matt Damon has to clean up and shave, otherwise he wouldn’t look like a good actor with questionable choices.

As soon as he makes a grand entrance in the banquet hall, everyone raises and applaudes his fresh looks, as was the custom in ancient China. The head warrior, who also is the general’s daughter, looks suspiciously like good CGI and she tells him “Meet me on the Wall”, which considering the length of said wall sounds a bit like “Meet me in Chile”. There, the High Concept is exposed: Mars has been attacking China for the last 20 centuries, and the purpose of the Wall is to contain the green herds, looking suspiciously like bad CGI. What’s implied is that only Matt Damon will be able to successfully stops the invasion, first because he’s white, but also because he knows that killing the alien queen will result in her spawn dying in a second. Does that sound familiar to you? I don”t know what you’re talking about. Did one mention it happens in CHINA?

Chinese people, if they were stupid enough not to implement the very basic plan Matt Damon comes up with, have not remained idle during these twenty centuries. On top of black powder they have invented trust-building exercices, moderately successful hot air balloons and rotor blades, even though most of their creativity seems to have been spent on military fashion. At some point the Emperor even discovers the fridge magnet: both hilarity and mayhem ensue.

Add to this William Dafoe, convinced he stars in a Beijing Circus version of The Count of Monte Cristo, a sadly underused Andy Lau, any available cliché including the slow clapping traitor and the bravoury suicide, and if you are not bored stiff you will be rewarded at the end by a couple of scenes, one in the Forbidden City sewers, one in a tower entirely made of typical ancient Chinese rainbow stained glass. Already in Yang Zimou’s The Forbidden City, interior decoration was bordering on garish; here, we enter Las Vegas LSD Disco Inferno territory. Once again, to say that it’s stupid and ugly would be missing the point: The Great Wall is far, far beyond both. Have your optometrist at hand if you dare watching that thing. Just saying.

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The Crown S1E8: Pride & Joy

Duty Queen

Spoiler Alert: the title of the episode refers to Papa’s nicknames for his two daughters. Elizabeth was his pride and Margaret his joy; both resented the other for being only one side of the royal coin; Pride & Joy highlights the moment when the two incarnations of Windsorness, the head of the Empire and her volubile deputy, clash on what is expected from the Crown. The episode manages to pack together the span of 23 weeks while distorting time in such a manner that no time passes in what feels like so many years of stately boredom.

Reviewing her modest wardrobe for her first Commonwealth Tour as a monarch, Elizabeth Regina feels 100 dresses and 50 pairs of shoes a little wee bit too many, but it’s Sir Winston’s orders that she compensates with questionable fashion every inch of influence the Empire has lost since the previous edition of such a courtesy to British colonies. India, see, is in unrest. She goes through the ordeal of protocol with her royal chin up, to the point of having the 50’s equivalent of Botox injections to soothe her inflamated zygomatic muscles. The burden of the Crown has to remain invisible to the masses when the Queen appears to her adoring subjects. Elizabeth is indeed a trooper.

Meanwhile, Prince Philip is being his usual rainmaker on his wife’s parade, calling the whole enterprise a “pantomime” and “a coat of paint”. Vested by the power of the writer, he’s once again gifted with an uncanny foresight which seems even more far-fatched after we were hit by the news that the second season will further develop his character. It’s becoming pretty obvious by now that Prince Philip is far more interesting to Peter Morgan than the Queen. The Crown slowly asserts itself as an elaborate – and pretty expensive – fan fiction on the most unlikely of subject: His Royal Highness the Duke of Edimburgh.

Sir Winston scoffs at Princess Margaret being quite the show girl. She enjoys a bit too much sporting tiaras in order to have good ol’fun at the Ambassador diner, or being politically incorrect on TV during a comical bout of coal mining. It’s still the 50s though, and the Press a national lapdog, so the order of things is restored when the Queen comes back from the Antipods and sternly reprimands her sister. She then resumes her duties in lonely Buckingham Palace after a mere glimpse of The Royal Rejects.

Wearing an hideous Barbour, Queen Mum galumphs at the end of the known world, namely a Scottish beach, more in chagrin of having lost the Crown than from any mourning of her dead husband. Some delicious quiproquo with a Scottish gentleman ensues. The ludicrousness of this segment alone is worth watching the episode. It gives an unexpected insight on the fact that if the Queen of England is so wealthy, it’s also because the Windsors are ruthless real estate negociators. Spoken, of course, like a real Scottswoman!

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Monster Bill: Worst of 2016

Worst Movie: Suicide Squad
One knows, this is no big suprise to have this dumpster of gargantuan proportions topping our list, but in a year which also inflicted Batman v Superman, Gods of Egypt, Inferno and The Accountant to a masochistic audience, this is quite an accomplishment. The draft of the caricature of a cardboard cartoon, the only suicide that thing should have caused is his writer’s.
Read the full review


Worst Series: Stranger Things
What do Stephen King, Steven Spielberg and JJ Abrams have in common? Well, obnoxious children of course! Evil representatives of the military-industrial complex, too! Oh, wait, and monsters in the closet! This laundry list of a series checks all cliché boxes, but the most frightening item of all is Winona Ryder’s eight episode long hysteric rampage. Ouch, that “Will, is that you?” asked to a lightbulb will stick.
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Worst Disapointment: The Neon Demon
There was a lot to anticipate about Nicolas Winding Refn’s “fashion project” but the final Product is some hand-me-down from Guy Bourdin, not couture. His lofty ideas on beauty as a curse are dramatically hampered by his utter lack of comprehension of his own choice of subject matter. Having the movie done in LA instead of Tokyo was just a poor choice among others, but it was that straw, you know, and that poor camel all over again.
Read the full review


Memorable lines
“Who are you in this vast multiverse, Mister Strange?” Doctor Strange
“A hooker with hidden depths is every man’s dream.” Westworld
“Let’s rouge each other’s nipples.” American Horror Story: My Roanoke Nightmare
“Show me your chickens, Max!” Allied
“Ah, you are not so good, Goddess of Love!” Gods of Egypt
“Don’t panic. It’s organic. It’s a va**na” Dirty Grandpa

Most dreaded movie in 2017: Blade Runner 2049

There is no way that one passes mustard, considering the ability for automutilation Ridley Scott has betrayed with his own Prometheus. After messing up his first masterpiece, it was only a matter of time he desacrated the second anyway. In spite of his mediocre Arrival, Denis Villeneuve has showed humbleness and pragmatism during the interviews he gave discussing his mission impossible: seducing a younger audience without date-raping their elders. If the movie is good, good. But could the movie possibly be good enough?

The comments section is your friend, use it to let us know if we have missed something dreadful that you would like to be reviewed here!

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