Do Superhero movies need saving? DC vs Marvel 2: Dawn of The Age of The Leotard Extended Universe

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last few years that has been a big trend in superhero movies. We are now at a stage where 3 or more come out every year, the question is do we need them? How will they keep us entertained? How can they differentiate themselves from the crowd?

Please enjoy this discussion and leave your thoughts below:

To get started here are all the Superhero films being released in the near future (starting this year)! Deep breath everyone!


  • Deadpool (Fox/Marvel) aka Mr Pansexual Sweary Fourth Wall
  • Batman vs Superman (DC) aka Discount Civil War
  • Captain America: Civil War (Marvel)
  • Suicide Squad (DC) aka Harlequin and ”Not Heath Ledger”
  • X-Men Apocalypse (F) aka The Other Jennifer Lawrence Franchise
  • Dr Strange (M) aka Magic Sherlock


  • Wolverine 3 (F)  aka The last movie before Hugh Jackman collapses under the weight of his own pecs and biceps
  • Guardians of The Galaxy 2 (M)
  • Not Black Widow Part 1 (DC) aka Wonder Woman
  • Spiderman (who knows?) – no not Tobey Maguire, no not him either… It’s Tom Holland
  • Thor Ragnarok (M)
  • Justice League Part 1 (DC) aka Team Up Timewonder-woman-amazons1


  • Black Panther (M) aka slowly dragging superhero diversity into the 21st century
  • The Flash (DC)
  • Antman and The Wasp (M) aka Tiny Tim and his gang of criminal stereotypes
  • Untitled Fox/Marvel film (read X-men/X-Force/Gambit/Deadpool 2/ god knows what?)
  • Aquaman (DC) aka not Seaman and Swallow
  • Animated Spiderman film


  • NOT BLACK WIDOW Part 2 (M) aka Captain Marvel
  • Shazam (DC) copywright infringement as he was formerly known as Captai Mar-vel
  • Avengers Infinity War Part 2 (M)
  • Justice League Part 2 (DC) YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!
  • Inhumans (M)


  • Cyborg (DC) aka not Robocop or Ultron
  • Untitled Marvel Film
  • Green Lantern (DC) aka Deadpool’s worst nightmare
  • Plus 2 more untitled Marvel films


  • Daredevil
  • Jessica Jones
  • Luke Cage
  • Iron Fist
  • The Defenders
  • Arrow
  • Flash
  • Agents Of Shield
  • Legends Of Tomorow
  • Agent Carter

This is a lot of films, now you could argue that there would be twice as many action or horror films in the same length of time. But super-hero films are a much more specific type of film; they stand on and represent a set of principles and ideals and are meant to inspire and amaze audience. And as such with 6 films/ year they will need to do something to differentiate themselves from the crowd. The question is DO WE NEED THIS MANY?

Now to prefix this, I love superhero films; they are exciting, full of heart and a brilliant spectacle. And while they do not all hit the mark in terms of a cinematic masterpiece they are all a lot of fun!

Superhero films overcame their first obstacle right out of the gate with Nolan’s Batman Begins and Iron Man for the MCU. They got well respected and talented actors to play the leads roles, lending a certain weight to the projects which made people to sit up, pay attention and give the films a chance. This trend has continued with even the small bit parts being played by A-list actors. At last count there are 23  OSCAR WINNING  and  28 OSCAR NOMINATED actors involved with comic book projects alone (this excludes any production/writing/directing nominees). Unsurprisingly with this great depth of acting talent, and well rounded supporting casts, the performances are never an issue. The performances bring the heart, emotion and often the fun to these films.

Now a good cast can only work with what they’re given and if not given the best screenplay, there is only so much they can do. There is a wealth of source-material to pull from, up to 60 years of material in fact. There are so many arcs and characters that we could have a never ending stream of comic book movies until 2100! Although I think once we reach Squirrel Girl (M), Arm Fall Off Boy (DC) and Matter Eater Lad (DC)  maybe we should call time of death!

The name says it all!

The first major problem with super-hero movies is related to this. All of the studios have a huge roll-out plan for their extended universe’s with over arching themes and arcs to span years. Which means they want to have tie-ins, links, easter eggs, foreshadowing , cameos, and Stan Lee (DC gets a free pass here) splattered all over each movie. And while these can be harmless, like Howard The Duck at the end of Guardians, they can also cause serious problems. Take Avengers: Age Of Ultron, a solid film. Not Marvels finest and not Marvels worst. One of the many reasons it suffered were the ways it was trying to play lip service to set up future films: visions for Thor 3 and Infinity War, Wakanda and Klaus for Black Panther, Hulk disappearing into space for whatever reason. This takes time away from real character development resulting in 2 hours of continuous action spectacle…which is exhausting. *SPOILER ALERT*Especially since it meant we had no real incite into the Maximoff Twins but were then expected to cry when of them died? By the way the Maximoff twins are DEFINITELY..I REPEAT…DEFINITELY NOT MUTANTS.

Then you get things at the opposite end of the spectrum; poor/curve ball writing choices like Black Widow and Hulk falling in love in Ultron, the entire X-men Last Stand film and Thor films outside of Loki. Which the best actors in the world can’t do anything about

The result of this is that each film tries to up the stakes, the spectacle and the CGI in an attempt to feel new, interesting and relevant. When in fact, creating a smaller, human story would be a much more captivating and thrilling film. Is it any wonder that that best comic book films tend to be more at home in other genres: Captain America: Winter Solider is a thriller, while the Dark Knight is an out an out crime film, even Ant-Man is a heist film. Granted, Avengers 1 and the better X-men films are very much super-hero films but they thrive on a human heart and witty humour (especially Avengers) and not on Michael Bay Explosions and super-hero landings.

These tropes are so familiar and hard to avoid that even Deadpool, the most self-aware comic movie around, managed to fall into the same tropes whilst taking the piss out of them!

Granted there are often some great action sequences, (like the gem below) but with 6 films a year potentially relying on this back-up plan, how long until it gets tedious?


The other perhaps more troubling problem with these movies? Directing. It is inconsistent, now I realise it is unrealistic for the same director to do all the movies in one universe. But for every true hit movie there are usually a couple of misses! Consistency in the quality of director is crucial, poor direction makes a poor movie no matter what the rest of the film production is like. This then effects the appearance and quality of the whole universe, due to the studious insistence on interconnection. Here are some examples:

  • Incredible Hulk – Lous Letterier – Critically poor background
  • Iron Man 3 -Shane Black – Inexperienced
  • Thor: Dark World – Alan Taylor – who?
  • Captain America: The First Avenger – Joe Johnstone – acclaimed director of JURASSIC PARK 3!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Point made?

Brian Singer has made great X-men films, James Gunn and The Russo Brothers produced some of the best Marvel films (both of which were surprising efforts). Although it remains to be seen how the latter two will fair on their second outings. As both Jon Favreau and Joss Whedon (both acclaimed directors) created amazing first entries to the cannon. Yet studio intervention, pressure and scale resulted in the 2nd films which were good but unable to reproduce the magic a 2nd time around. Especially in Whedon’s case (1min 15 onwards).

I believe that to avoid superhero burnout we need to focus on smaller, grounded, personal stories within the grand scale AND directors must be held to a higher standard. Choosing experienced and quality directors who will make the smart choices. GRANTED even this does not guarantee success, take the first Thor and its director Kenneth Brannagh, an acclaimed Shakespearan director and actor; but an average film at best. But with all these movies vying for the limelight it is an issue which has to be addressed.

This brings me to Batman vs Superman. FULL DISCLOSURE I HAVEN’T SEEN IT YET. I am excited to see the film and will go in open-minded but I am not surprised by the luke-warm critical reception it has received:

  1. They are trying to set up a super-hero team up in one movie, something that took Marvel 5 films. This probably means screen time will be spread too thin between all the plot lines and tie-ins leading to forced cameos and exposition and probably poorly explained motives.
  2. The cast is strong and the acting will be great (especially excited for Batfleck) but this can’t save a movie if it’s already flawed.
  3. Zack Snyder. If we are all honest has he ever made a really good movie? 300, is solid. Watchmen is okay but far too long. Suckerpunch is a bizarre fever dream. All 3 are style over substance. His debut Dawn of the Dead remake is probably his best bet but still isn’t great. So why are people surprised when he doesn’t suddenly pull a cinematic masterpiece out of his backside?

Like I said I will go in open-minded and will probably enjoy the film, even find lots of praise for it. But will I love it the way I love other super-hero movies or even other movies in general? Probably not!

Now the future for super-hero movies does look promising, the casts continue to grow in talent. There are some exciting releases to come this year with Civil War (YAY SPIDERMAN), Suicide Squad and the emergence of magic in the MCU with Doctor Strange. After which, the super-hero genre is finally beginning to embrace diversity with the first African-Amercan and female lead movies being released in the near future. There are also some great directors attached to new exciting projects: David Ayer (Training Day) for Suicide Squad, Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station and Creed) for Black Panther and the Russo‘s have several films in the works.

But only time will tell if this film movement is a flash in the pan or whether it will last. But as long as audiences keep bringing in the huge profits you can be sure to see a lot more leotards over the next few years. Lets just hope the experience can always feel as new and exciting as it still does now!

Let me know your thoughts below!


Only Lovers Left Alive…forever… and ever…(A blood red romance with bite)

Only Lovers Left Alive is a vampire film with a twist, directed by Jim Jarmusch and starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston. It came out in 2013 and although well received by critics and film festivals it did not get a huge release. Upon watching it you can see why, it is the polar opposite of a blockbuster.  If Twilight’s glistening, despicable, farcical, twinkling shovel-faced excuses for vampires were day then these would be night; intelligent, sophisticated and dark.

This is one of the most original and intelligent films made in recent years, is fantastically made and I would definitely recommend watching!

So without further ado, here is the trailer:

This film creates an entire backstory and history surrounding the culture of vampires whilst centering around Adam (Hiddleston) and Eve (Swinton), who have been married for centuries but live in different worlds. Adam is an underground musician in Detroit whilst Eve reads voraciously in Tangiers, Morocco. Throughout the ages the have influenced and been inspired by great artists, scientists and musicians. A one stage Adam rattles of a list of friends including Gallileo, Newton and Tesla. Possibly the most intellectual and world changing name-drop in history. Eve’s dearest friend goes by the alias Kit (John Hurt) although it quickly becomes apparent he is actually Christopher Marlowe, the man rumoured to have faked his death to become Shakespeare. He also happens to be Eve’s contact to get ”the good stuff”, ie uncontaminated and healthy human blood.

These vampires sleep all day and wake all night. They drink blood. They have fangs. They are immortal. But they are not mindless monsters intent on world domination (see Van Helsing, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Daybreakers for reference). Nor are they those driveling, mindless, bland, vacuous empty shells of pitiful nothingness found in the Twilight movies!…God it just makes me so angry! These vampires are people with range, intelligence and emotion. They are characters, which is a novelty in of itself in what is essentially a vampire movie. They show the true potential of immortality; near limitless wisdom, a connection with the world, a sense of perspective. This was a brilliant piece of screen-writing to construct these characters. Eve is content to read and enjoy the world whereas Adam creates beautiful music but hides it from the world; spiteful of the humans and the banality and destructiveness. He calls them zombies with contempt and pity for wandering through life so aimlessly, this has left him depressed and insular…a typical tortured artist if you will. This prompts Eve to travel to Detroit and reinvigorate her lover.

Half-way through Eve’s sister, Ava (Mia Wasikowska) enters, a vampire who appears to have been ”turned” in her early 20’s. She is impulsive, reckless, full of limitless energy and always on the move. She is the flip side of the coin. An eternally wasted youth, forever stuck in the abyss between adolescence and adulthood and this immaturity causes problems. Particularly clashing with Adams insular and pensive attitude.

At this point it is only fair to stop and say that all the performances in this film are brilliant, especially Swinton and Hiddleston’s.

Living in today’s civilized society vampires try to avoid killing humans for blood and instead must find and bribe local doctors for excess “O Neg” blood supplies, for which they pay handsomely… in Adam’s case anyway. Adam’s contact is Dr.Watson, who played brilliantly in a small role by Jeffrey Wright provides some light relief. The blood drinking was a delight to watch. Small, delicate glasses filled with viscous red-liquid providing instant ecstasy and satisfaction. For the more impulsive vampires such as Ava, you could see how this may be problematic.

”I’ll have what she’s having!”

The film takes place entirely at night, but the shots are still full of vibrant colour and tone. Each of Adam and Eve’s interactions with this nocturnal world is a brief glimpse into their life experiences; reciting each plant they touch by its latin name, bewilderment at mushrooms growing out of season, the state of modern humanity. All is placed in order and perspective. Add to this a haunting soundtrack that ranges from ethereal soft sounds to hard rock and to Arabic moods. It really is a pleasure to watch. ALTHOUGH my one complaint would be that the speaking volume is low, especially in the 1st 30 mins, and I watched with subtitles to compensate.

Vampire lore and mythology is referenced and adhered to in creative ways. Bad luck to pass a threshold uninvited, but garlic is laughed off as an old superstition. Adam acquires a bullet made of dense wood when contemplating suicide. They sleep through the day, cant go out in sunlight and as such only travel on overnight flights, by first class I might add. Coffins and wooden stakes are playfully mention. Yet when called upon and given no alternative they will turn to their darker, revered and frightening ways, all in the name of self preservation… either that or thirst.

It is all there. These characters are Vampires but they feel fresh and original, a miraculous achievement.

One thing I didn’t understand was why they were always wearing gloves? If anyone has any ideas about Vampires and gloves let me know!

Now for two more comical observations:

1) Where did they get all this money from? I mean they are seriously loaded. Adam is paying out thousands of dollars a week for instruments, recording equipment and not to mention the blood. Then they fly first class everywhere…from Detroit to Madrid and then to Tangiers…that shit ain’t cheap!

Okay over the centuries they probably have a pretty large accumulation of rare and valuable stuff they can sell. Maybe they put some money in the bank in the 1500s and they’re just raking in the interest. Who knows? Either way for a couple without jobs they are playing with some serious cheddar.

2) By calling them Adam and Eve where they implying they have been around since the first signs of humanity? If so why aren’t all people related to/types of vampire? Is this biblical? Were these two the ones who pissed God off, pulled a fast one and got God to punish the humans for original sin?

Anyway this got me thinking. (SPOILER AHEAD)…..

If they are Adam and Eve, maybe the older Christopher Monroe is a God like/Jesus sort of figure. And if so that means that a dodgy doctor in Tangiers killed Jesus by giving him some dirty blood. He is not going to be popular in church on Sunday!

This is a fantastic film and I truly recommend giving it a watch. This film may star Vampires but it is not a horror movie. It is really a story about love and the appreciation of life that is delivered with charm, some interesting philosophy and a dash of historical artistic license!

VERDICT: ”You must excuse me, for I have already dined. And I never drink wine.”

PS: ”To make you a vampire they have to suck your blood. Then you have to suck their blood. It’s like a whole big sucking thing.”

DefiANT-ly good: ANT-MAN aka Super ANT vs Scheming mANTis (relatively spoiler free)

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So to round out Marvels triumphANT phase 2 (whilst also heralding the arrival of Phase 3 with some not so subtle easter eggs) ANT-Man, directed by Peyton Reed, has arrived in cinema’s. Here is the trailer:

This film sees Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a newly released ex-con, trying to live on the straight’n’narrow to win a place back in his daughter’s life. In the process he gets wrapped up in the life of Hank Pym (Michael DOUGLAS), a scientific genius, who founded the importANT and ANTdvanced technology company Pym Technologies. Pym created the Pym particle in the 80s, a technology that can condense matter into an ANT sized package. However, Pym realised the damage this technology could do if fell into the wrong hands and decidied to bury the tech. Now Pym’s former protege, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), aided (ish) by his daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lily) run the company and want to release this technology to the highest bidder and unleash deviANTce and chaos across the globe. ConsequANTly Pym recruits Scott Lang to become the ANT-man.

He’s got a big package for such a little guy!

Sooo… This movie is a whole lot of fun and I would definitely recommend giving it a watch. The movie has action, emotion, lots of laughs and a refreshing take on the superhero movie. This film decides to turn down the sheer magnificANT scale and instead delivers an intuitive piece that provides action and spectacle but not at the expense of character developmANT. There is also a great superhero training montage at the expense of many superhero tropes! Normally I’d also make some snide or witty remark about different, isolated characters using the exact same uncommon phrase to get the protagonist to jump into action. But this time I’ll let it galavANT away.

So lets begin:


Completing Lang’s gang of what appears to be an incompetANT gang of miscreANTs and criminals are: Luis (Michael Pena) the muscle?, Dave (T.I.) the getaway driver and Kurt (Dave Dastmalchian) the IT guy. These characters provide a lot of the comedic entertainmANT, especially Pena who steals every single scene he’s in with a stereotypical, ludicrous and brilliANT performance as fast talking Luis.

The three mains, Rudd, Lily and Douglas, give strong performances. Rudd is convincing in his first ANT-man outing and is simultaneously charming, intelligANT, caring and funny. Lily does a brilliant job as a double agent of sorts. You truly feel her frustration and resentmANT towards her fathers refusal to let her take up the ANT-(wo)man mANTle.

2) MalignANT Baddy

My main complaint with the film would be the ANTagonist, Darren Cross, who is played well by Corey Stoll. I know this film is going to be a smaller scale offering and we shouldnt expect an omnipotANT threat like Thanos or Ultron. But this man is just a greedy sciANTist in a suit who wants more power than he has, much like Obadiah from the first Iron Man film.

Yes there are moments, albeit not long ones, where you feel our heroes are in significANT danger or peril. Or you feel that Cross could succeed in unleashing terror upon the world. BUT a smart man, in a suit does not a serious, scary villain make. I dont really know how this could have been avoided as the story felt like the perfect way to introduce ANT-man to the cinematic universe but the bad guy just didn’t seem quite enough to me.

3) Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) tie-ins

This film was about as stand alone as things can get in the currANT stage of the MCU, which is building towards Avengers:Infinity War, but still had plenty of little Easter eggs and tie-ins for those astute members of the audience. They didn’t require in depth comic book knowledge and didn’t interrupt the flow of the film, they were fitting and fun. Even my parents got them (to a certain extANT anyway)! There are even some mentions of other heroes that we may be meeting soon, a certain someone who crawls up walls!

SPOILER:……The Avengers tie-in scene is a great cameo but also serves a serious plot point. The cameo is also enough to impress without being over the top self-aggrandizing marketing.

The Mid-credits scene has a huge amount of potential, especially given Evangeline Lily’s great performance in this movie. I wont say anything else but stay seated.

The end credits clip doesn’t have much importANTce to this film but does have fairly significANT implications for next years Captain America: Civil War.

4) COMEDI-ANTS getting ripped

Okay, here I am not talking about people like RDJ, Hemsworth or Evans. Or even Evangeline Lily (who is by the way in incredible physical condition for this film – if I learnt anything it is not to piss her off. She has a look of disgust that could metaphorically kill and martial art skills that literally kill). They have always been in good shape, they have been leading actors for a while so being in strong condition is important. In an ideal world aesthetics wouldn’t matter but they do. Plus these are Superhero movies they are meant to look fANTastic.

She will disintegrate you with that look alone.

I am talking about two men in particular (and almost certainly more to follow!) although I’m sure there are other examples. Here are there before and after shots:

Chris ”Star Lord” Pratt: Guardians Of The Galaxy

From Dad bod to I don’t need my dead beat space Dad!

Paul ”ANT-man” Rudd

From ”This Is 40” to 46 year old super-hero

These two are the perfect examples of funny,charismatic and talANTed actors who were right for the part they just weren’t in superhero shape yet. These transformations are impressive and serve to be both inspirational and also an example of the problems caused by the film industries standards of attractiveness and beauty. Then again I suppose if you want to play superhero you have got to look the part.


VERDICT: I ENJOYED IT ENOUGH TO FIT 38 ANTS INTO THIS POST, with varying levels of relevANTs and accuracy. BOOM 40


PPS/ I certainly don’t feel WASPish about this review. (If you watch the film/read the comics you’ll know what I mean!)

PPPS/ Sorry for all the ANTS! There must have been some in my pANTS. 42 BOOM!

Black Widow: Fur Is The New Catsuit aka UNDER THE SKIN

After discussing Martha Marcy May Marlene and Elizabeth Olsen, I thought this could be a good idea for a series of reviews. At the very least  it means I don’t have to actually think of any new ideas for a while. Anyway…

UNDER THE SKIN is a small independent film set in Scotland, starring Scarlett Johansson as a seductive/predatory alien who gives a new (not necessarily better) meaning to the phrase, ‘Glasgow Kiss’. Despite this strange set up this is a great film and deserves far more credit and publicity than it has received.

So for anyone who hasn’t seen/heard of it. Here is the trailer!

Granted this does not look like your typical alien/sci-fi fare. She is not green. She has no spaceship. She looks like a human. If that’s not your bag then you have my blessings to return to Guardians Of The Galaxy/ Star Wars/ ET. Basically anything that isn’t Green Lantern. It is an abomination. It’s unnatural. It makes me uncomfortable and it is just not right! Same goes for Battleships, a film about aliens that is based on a board game which has nothing to do with aliens. Oh and Jar-Jar Binx too. You can probably throw the Independence Day sequel into this pile as well when it comes out.

This film centres around the mysterious, alluring and unsettling alien (Scarlett Johansson) who preys upon the men of Scotland. I wont go into plot details much here because the magic of this film is never really knowing where it is all headed and being able to draw your own conclusions. I say this mainly because I’ve been unable to make any of significance and this is my  ‘Get out of jail free card”. Allowing me to divert your attention away from the fact that I know nothing while sounding much more intelligent and qualified than I have any right to do.

Johansson’s performance is exceptional. She exudes a seductive charm whilst also being cold, sinister and distant. As a straight man, I find this confusing. A feeling I’m sure men of Scotland will share with after seeing this film. She also has a pretty good English accent. Something of a rare commodity these days. For a comparison here is Russel Crowe in Robin Hood.

But at least he tried unlike a certain someone in the Eagle!

Her character makes you question what it means to be human, especially as she develops a childlike inquisitive nature throughout the film. Is it possible for her to make her new home here on Earth? Or will she remain drifting and lost in the nightclubs of Scotland.

Shots of misty, green countryside to gritty, foreboding town centres capture the predatory feel of the main character. There are some truly original visual moments which deliver something I’d never seen in cinema before. A feat that becomes harder and harder with each passing movie release. The director did an excellent job. I’m sure he’ll be relieved to hear I approve.

If I were to have one gripe. It would be that the supporting character of ”The Biker” gets practically no explanation. I realise this helps to keep everything mystifying and magical and leave you asking for more. But here’s the thing this is an adaptation of a Michael Faber book from 2000. The book gives some more details about this character and helps create a fuller understanding of the situation as a whole.

Well, apparently anyway. I’ve not read it. I’m mean who owns books anymore?  Before you judge me though. Have you read it?.. Didn’t think so.

I think this could have been a helpful addition, but as usual I am probably wrong.

This film is ”arty” and the polar opposite of a Hollywood blockbuster. This can be a turn off for some; it isn’t an easy watch and wants you to ask questions. The dialogue is sparse. The answers are not all nicely laid out and explained with a convenient Morgan Freeman voice-over. It builds slowly and with lots of intensity but doesn’t rush anything.  It is intriguing, original and, as we enter the usual summer movie madness of big-budget action, franchise re-quels and cheesy rom-coms, it could be just the alternative you are looking for.




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The Olsen Triplet: Martha Marcy Marianne Marion Mandy Megan Michelle May Marlene

With all the current focus on The Avengers: Age Of Ultron. I thought I would discuss one of the new cast members and relative unknowns Elizabeth Olsen aka Scarlet Witch.

Martha Maroon Magic Marvellous

Her first feature film appearance was in the independent drama MARTHA MARCY MAY… Oh I Give Up I dont know which is her name!

Here is the trailer:

A peaceful farm becomes a darkened dinner table full of young men quietly eating whilst intently avoiding eye contact, while the women stand outside on baited breath listening for any murmurs of discontent. Marcy May (Olsen) runs into a forest and hides whilst being followed by a young man. All of the above takes place with very little dialogue only helpings to further our sense of foreboding. The first real conversation takes place with the young man finding Marcy May, alone in a diner, and chastising her for leaving. Olsen (now helpfully named Martha) then makes an intense and emotional phone call to her sister, Lucy, ending it with a confused and painful, ”I can’t leave now”. Lucy (Sarah Paulson) picks Martha up and brings her to the lake house where she lives with her husband (Hugh Dancy). This is the film’s real question. How do you adapt to a new, better life when still haunted by a traumatic past? Especially since the past makes you what you are. Philosophy aside. I struggle with this all the time. I keep ordering food from the same take away. I keep giving them another chance. But deep down I know that I’m just going to get food poisoning again!

The films switches seamlessly between Martha’s increasingly paranoid behaviour at the lake house with her sister and her previous life at the tranquil commune. One of Martha’s first interactions in her new home is to go for a swim in the public lake absolutely naked. Martha doesn’t understand her sister’s shock and anger, much less that this is not normal behaviour. The focus of the scene stays with Lucy, while in the background Martha runs down to the lake and goes swimming. This projects a childlike innocence and naivety, while focusing on how normal this seems. Until both you and Lucy, simultaneously, realise what she has done. This cuts straight to Martha and the other commune members swimming naked together. This is a remarkable scene which if not done so well could easily have become an intro to a high budget porno titled, ‘‘The Lady In The Lake’’. By recent cinematic standards this is an achievement in itself. Contrast this with Megan Fox in Michael Bay’s Transformers series and TNMT for ideas how to sexualize everything: fixing a car, getting on and off a motorbike, a seductive robot who then tries to kill you, a reporter bending out the window of a moving van, turtles, cars, robots again…. God I hate Michael Bay! …Huh?… 2 more transformers movies?!!…. At least?!….And a TNMT sequel?!…Fuck this I’m out!…………………..

Each act of Martha increasing paranoia leads into a Marcy May commune scene. Each new bit of information is, in retrospect, never enough to completely explain Martha’s actions. You leave each scene with curiosity partially satisfied whilst never knowing the whole truth. What you see is harrowing, intense and at times stomach churning but we never see the full extent of the control, manipulation and abuse Martha endured at the commune. These transitions between Martha’s memories and reality; force the audience to ride the line between sanity and delusion with Martha. The cuts are clever and beautifully thought out. So much so that the only thing like it is trying to decipher which drunk texts you sent and which were an alcohol induced fever dream. Only to find you already deleted your messages, in a whirlwind of drunken rage and guilt.

The commune’s elaborate ‘’cleansing’’ ceremony is as enjoyable as it sounds and worse to watch. It completes Martha’s transformation from innocent victim into Marcy May; an indoctrinated, complicit and committed member of the commune. [INSERT LINDSAY LOHAN/MILEY CYRUS JOKE HERE]. I won’t give too much away but the ‘’cleansing’’ is less puppies, sunshine and rainbows and more like the film ‘’Source Code’’ but instead of defusing a bomb every 8 minutes you just have to kill a puppy.

I'm sorry for this visual!

I’m sorry for this visual!

The film boils down to two relationships. Marcy May and Patrick, the commune’s charismatic leader and Martha and her sister, Lucy. Marcy May is enticed by Patrick and quickly lets her guard down to find a controlling, manipulative and abusive patriarch. In contrast, Lucy, who is guilt driven to compulsively act as Martha’s surrogate mother, genuinely cares and loves her. For this Lucy is met with a constant icy, evasiveness. This is the power Patrick holds over both Marcy May and Marlene

Now so far I have avoided the C WORD and for good reason, it is a show stopper. But there’s no way round it. The commune is in every sense of the word a C-U-errmm-L-T. CULT. Think the Manson’s with less murder meets the Westborough Baptist Church minus all that God stuff. Patrick appears a caring teacher on the surface with his mantra of helping people find their place. But under the skin is the real Patrick: menacing, possessive and predatory. He uses isolated young women’s insecurities and weaknesses to idolize himself.

What are Patrick’s motivations? How do people end up at the commune? What pushed Martha there? Why do they all use the alias Marlene Lewis when answering the phone? These questions make the film and its ending all the more intriguing and unsettling. It is best to leave people wanting more rather than full, gassy and noxious. See the Roman vomitoriums for confirmation.

Elizabeth Olsen carries this film with an exceptional performance. I enjoyed this subtle thriller and would recommend it!


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