Tag Archives: Kristin Stewart

Under the Sea


by Hope Madden

Kristin Stewart has been stretching.

Yes, she will probably forever be first known as that girl from Twilight, unfortunately. But, in the same way her ex-vampire lover Robert Pattinson has relentlessly carved a stronger impression via challenging independent film roles, Stewart has been honing her craft and developing a reputation as a solid talent via varying roles in small budget films.

The few dozen or so of us who saw her versatility over the last few years in Personal Shopper, JT LeRoy, Lizzie, Certain Women, Still Alice and Clouds of Sils Maria no longer think first of Twilight’s Bella Swan.

But Ellen Ripley?

William Eubank’s deep sea horror Underwater sees Stewart as Nora, a no-nonsense, quick thinking, fast acting survivor—the kind who just might keep the remaining crew alive as they try to make their way from an irreversibly damaged deep sea drill rig to a nearby vessel that might have pods to float them to safety.

But what caused the damage in the first place and what is making that noise?

Eubank has assembled a surprisingly solid cast for his “Alien Under the Sea” flick. Joining Stewart as the rig’s humbly heroic captain is the always excellent Vincent Cassel, while John Gallagher Jr. plays the latest in his long line of effortlessly likeable good guys, Smith. Chubby comic relief is delivered by T.J. Miller.

If that sounds like your basic set of recognizable stereotypes assembled to be picked off one by one, you’ve detected the first major problem with Eubank’s film: a breathtaking lack of originality.

The script, penned by Brian Duffield (The Babysitter) and Adam Cozad (The Legend of Tarzan), offers nothing in the way of novelty and much of the dialog is stilted, and Nora’s third act reveal of the emotional damage she must overcome is false and forced.

Luckily, Eubanks somehow convinced a bunch of genuinely talented actors to deliver these lines, so they mainly come off fine. And while the director frustratingly and consistently undercuts the claustrophobic tension he’s begun building, his monsters are pretty cool looking.

Stewart gets to try on the action hero role, and she’s not too bad. For a 95 minute sea monster movie, neither is Underwater. It’s not too good, either, but at least there are no sparkly vampires.

Shop ’til you Drop

Personal Shopper

by Hope Madden

Kristin Stewart is an acquired taste. In the last few years, though, she’s shown in a handful of indies that she has some talent. Not a great deal of range, but some definite talent.

That shone most brightly in writer/director Olivier Assayas’s 2014 film Clouds of Sils Maria.

In that film, Stewart played the put-upon personal assistant to a demanding celebrity. Assayas places Stewart in a similar position but with wildly differing themes for his latest, Personal Shopper.

Stewart plays Maureen, an introverted American in Paris. By day, Maureen darts around Paris and even trains to London to pick up fancy-schmancies for her A-lister boss to wear to this red carpet or that fashion show.

By night, though, Maureen wanders the empty rooms of her deceased twin brother Lewis’s old house. Both siblings possessed the gifts of a medium, and Maureen wants to contact Lewis.

It’s a ghost story of sorts, with a bit of a mystery thrown in for good measure, but what Personal Shopper really offers is an exploration of isolation, alienation and identity in the digital age.

Maureen is almost always almost alone. As the film opens, her friend drops her off at Lewis’s old house and Maureen asks, “You’re not staying?”

No, she is not. It’s just Maureen in this old house and her desire to connect with someone.

Likewise, Maureen periodically Skypes with her boyfriend, on some kind of IT assignment halfway across the globe. And she is always just missing the celebrity she shops for. Maureen’s solitary existence is a series of near-connections.

Assayas explores this most fully with an anxiety-inducing texting relationship with an unknown contact – a plot device that attempts to drive the themes and storyline forward. But, as is often the case with this filmmaker, ambiguities and curiosities are more important than closure or action.

Aside from an unfortunate run-in with CGI, the film barely registers as horror and impatient genre fans are likely to be disappointed. But for a lonesome comment on modern times – or for proof that Kristin Stewart can actually act – it’s not bad.


Red Versus Blue


by Cat McAlpine

In a blue-white landscape where form follows function, director and story writer Drake Doremus must choose between head and heart. He chooses heart, every time.

I’ve seen some parallels drawn between this film and 1984 (fair) or Romeo and Juliet (a bit of a stretch). Is any story wholly original? No. Does Equals borrow? Yes. And if I were to point fingers, I’d look to Lois Lowry’s “The Giver.”

In “The Giver,” a young boy learns to feel pain and passion, to serve as his community’s vessel for the humanity that has been anesthetized. It’s not until he discovers color in a red apple that you realize, already half-way through the text, that the author has not used a single colored adjective. The world until that point has been flat, black and white.

The lesser film adaptation betrays this wonderment and horror in its added visual dimension, shooting for the most in grayscale.

In Equals, a remaining fraction of the human race lives in a community called The Collective. They have been genetically engineered to not feel emotion. Their DNA, lobotomized. However, emotion does surface in what Collective leaders warn is a dangerous disease called “Switched on Syndrome.” Those with advanced stages are encouraged to kill themselves, or are otherwise contained and dealt with at The Den.

Early scenes are shot in harsh white with moody blue undertones, but when Silas (Nicholas Holt) and Nia (Kristen Stewart) discover each other, and love, the color palate shifts. Oranges and reds appear, in flares, and in the film’s coloring as a whole. Purples emerge where the two moods meet. Paired with a beautiful lighting design, all tortured silhouettes and sets filled with glass and steel, the imagery is powerful. Not unlike black and white versus color, Doremus toys with red versus blue.

Unfortunately, Equals is so enchanted with its own aesthetic that it almost stands still. My heart ached but my mind wandered. The same white industrial sets begin to wear on the viewer in hour two, and while Holt and Stewart give powerful performances, it is hard for them to shine in some of the more drab settings.

Stewart, in particular, is fantastic as Nia. Despite Doremus’s melodramatic intentions, she is never over-the-top and always justified. If we are still making the same jokes about Stewart’s ability to emote, let them be finally laid to rest. She is raw and believable. I sincerely doubt she took this role without contemplating the image Twilight earned her, and if this is her middle finger to those critics, I salute it.

If you consider this as a film, a visual exploration of the human heart, Equals is stunning. In keeping the same white sets and pacing at a slow burn, the color theory shines. The lighting design is moving. The concept of discovering feeling in an emotionless landscape is beautiful and heart-wrenching.

If you consider this as a movie, an hour and a half journey that feels like three, you will find yourself bored. Equals is not overly cerebral, but promises adventures that never come. An unsure ending stays true to the themes of emotion and heart, but will leave viewers uncomfortable and longing. It’s hard to say if this is intentional.

Paired with the rest of the box office, gritty action packed adventures and dirty, drunk comedies, Equals may very well fade quietly into the background.


Wait a minute – Kristen Stewart can act?

By Hope Madden

It is hard to believe Jack Kerouac’s seminal buddy adventure On the Road has not been made into a film before now. It makes sense that director Walter Salles was the filmmaker to finally tackle it, since his The Motorcycle Diaries was sort of Che Guevara’s version of the same existential, cross-continental, life-defining trip. For Road’s Sal Paradise (the author’s alter ego), though, this trip ended in the birth of America’s Beat Generation (as opposed to Latin America’s interest in Communism). But still, you know, important stuff.

Paradise (Sam Riley), of course, strikes up a bond with enigmatic wild man Dean Moriarty, played by Tron: Legacy’s Garrett Hedlund and based on Kerouac’s buddy Neal Cassady. The rest of the tale sees the author outlining the interweaving lives, intimacies and inspirations of the various Beat writers, changing their names without truly concealing their identities.

While the entire cast has big shoes to fill, Hedlund is most challenged. Moriarty/Cassady presents a larger than life character to try to portray. Both Hunter S. Thompson (in Hell’s Angels) and Charles Bukowski (in Notes of a Dirty Old Man) depicted Cassady as a tragically beautiful, untamed spirit. Take note: if Bukowski and Thompson think you are wild…you, sir, are the real deal.

Hedlund strikes a nice pose, but he hasn’t the guts to pull the character off. High energy, good looking, a little damaged, but hardly the magnetic force of nature that inspired so many writers.

Riley fares a bit better as the artistically needy Paradise, and Twilight’s Kristen Stewart surprises the shit out of everyone by doing a fine job as young sexpot Marylou.

They’re joined by a host of excellent cameos, including Viggo Mortensen as Old Bull Lee (based on William S. Burroughs), and an especially nutty Amy Adams as his wife Jane (based on Joan Vollmer).

Salles makes the most of the cast he’s got, and his poetic way with a camera saturates the picture with a lovely, nostalgic quality. He mixes in frenetic party scenes, fluid road sequences, and enough  bongo and snare to remind us we are witnessing the birth of the beat. Still, having inspired countless other adventures, On the Road doesn’t feel too fresh, and Salles can’t uncover the vitality that fueled this landmark road trip in the first place.

He has crafted a very pretty film, competently assembled and pleasantly performed. Really, On the Road should amount to more than that.

3 stars (out of 5)