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Black Swan (2011) Review

RELEASED: 21 January 2011

As 2011 draws ever closer to an end, The Smoovie wants to looks back at one of the most magnificent, raunchy and refreshing films of the year. Coming off the back of critically acclaimed The Wrestler (2009), promising and exciting American director Darren Aronofsky flaunts his stuff with Black Swan.

Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is a highly talented ballerina in a company headed by Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), and becomes excited by the prospect of filling the role of Queen Swan, now vacant due to the ended career of Beth Macintyre (Winona Ryder). But Lily, fresh from San Francisco, joins the troupe, and Sayers must battle with the newcomer in a complex relationship full of sexual tension, schizophrenia, and madness. It all gets very psychological.

Black Swan is a master class in directing, provided to us courtesy of Aronofsky. The handheld single camera filming takes us right to the heart of the ballet, to where the battle for one’s inner desires takes place. It is terrific stuff, filled with thrilling and pretty gory moments. Aronofsky is able to render self-inflicted face stabbing as artistic. The attention to detail is quite frankly sublime, from the ritual of reinforcing the ballet shoes, to the consciousness of Sayers controlling her eating in the quest for perfection.

And Aronofsky has a knack for bringing out the best of his actors. You only have to think back to Mickey Rourke’s role in The Wrestler and his subsequent Oscar nomination. Portman has everything that you want to see from a role of this complexity: struggle with her inner demon, passion for the girl she can’t have, and a rollercoaster display of emotions from the plain angry to the sensuously erotic. Barbara Hershy veers between obsessively coddling to creepily demonic at times, in a truly harrowing portrayal of Nina’s mother that no doubt contributes to her mental issues. Even Kunis, whose most notable roles are in sitcoms and romcoms, gives us a truly respectable performance, especially in handling some of the risqué material.

Black Swan pirouettes and glides across the screen to a conclusion that is most fitting, and even if it does not reach “perfection” as Nina so brilliantly does, it gets very damn close.

Thor Review

RELEASED: 27 April 2011

Thor is an Avenger, but unlike shield wielding Captain America, or green beast Hulk, Thor is a Norse God, and fittingly, Kenneth Branagh brings us a film of epic proportions in Thor.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) discovers that it’s not easy to keep a cool temper when you’re the God of Thunder wielding a hammer you wont find on a B&Q shelf, especially when you’re confronted by Frost Giants attempting to steal the source of your realm’s power. After Thor unleashes his rage on the frozen beasts, his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) banishes him from Asgard (somehow I don’t think grounding him would have done the trick) and Thor lands on Earth. Like a fish out of water, Hemworth plays these scenes to comedic perfection, one time asking a pet shop for a horse, and next breaking loose out of a hospital. And even when Thor’s friends from Asgard come to help, it looks like a superhero convention has hit town.

On earth, Thor falls in love with researcher Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) whilst his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in a jealous fit, decides to bring down Asgard and hand it to the Frost Giants. The relationships in Thor take a bit of time to get underway. Jane and Thor’s romance comes together quickly at the end and it never really feels like it was developing slowly. But when they are together, Portman and Hemsworth are a great pair, providing laughs as Foster tries to work Thor out, and they also provide a romance that will carry forward into Thor 2. The sibling rivalry too, didn’t exactly kick start. The problem is that Thor spends a lot of the film on Earth whilst Loki is in Asgard. They are worlds apart, literally. But again this relationship, brother to brother, is quite intense at the finale, as Thor has to contend with kicking his brother’s ass.

And kicking ass is definitely done well in Thor. Right from the off, the action does not disappoint as Thor’s hammer flies across in trademark style, smashing the Frost Giants to bits. And even when Thor loses his powers, he still manages to storm a camp full of special agents to retrieve his hammer. Mix this with some super teleportation technique from one realm to the next, and you get a film where the CGI is exciting and the action is electric.

Branagh has got the right mix in Thor, welding together some comedy and action, whilst hammering in some romance too. The prospect of The Avengers film becomes all the more tantalising now and our mouths are made to water with the teaser trailer at the end of Thor. But for now, Thor makes a thunderous debut to the realm of the big screen.

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