I’m not sitting on any Fences with this film

An African-American man in the 1950s tries to raise his family whilst coming to terms with the events of his life.

In 1950s Pittsburgh, Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) makes a living as a sanitation worker. He once dreamed of becoming a Major League Baseball player, but was passed over after deemed to be too old to be a serious competition. Troy has always suspected that the colour of his skin was to blame for his failure however, as has seemingly been the case for many of his other pitfalls in life. His bitterness towards how his own life has treated slowly begins to cause ructions within his family, especially when he quashes his son’s chances of becoming an football player.

Fences was one of this year’s most anticipated films for me. The Oscar nominations is received only made me want to see it even more, and now that I have finally seen it, I have to say that it fully delivered for me. The performances were show-stopping, and made the story that the film had to tell feel so real.

This is a film that really is for people who love actors. I’ve loved all the work I’ve seen from Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, and this story was no exception. Washington is quite possibly at career best here as Troy, and that says a lot, especially if you take the time to look back at his filmography and see some of his other roles. He put on such a raw performance, and his scenes with both Davis and Mykelti Williamson were simply wonderful to watch.

Davis played Troy’s long-suffering wife Rose, and just so you can get a feel for what her performance did for me, I’ll let you know that you cannot begin to comprehend the roars that came from my living room when she won her BAFTA on Sunday. Troy may have been the main character here, but there is no doubt that this was Rose’s story. There was so much passion in Davis’ performance. You could tell that this film was a project that she felt deeply about, as was the case for everyone involved, but Davis’ energy just radiated around the room when I was watching her.

Someone who I think was hard done by when it came to awards nominations was Mykelti Williamson, who played Troy’s brother Gabriel. He gave such a touching and sensitive performance as the man who had such a great part of him stripped away during the war. His scenes with both Washington and Davis were something to behold, and added yet another layer of magic to a film that was already hitting all the right notes for me.

Washington not only played a blinder here – he also directed the film, which was adapted from the August Wilson play of the same name. I’ve just spoken about how this film was a labour of love for everyone involved, and none more so than Washington. He has had connections with the story for a number of years, and so I fail to think of someone better suited to head up the task of moving it from stage to screen than him. Beyond the fact I thought the run time was probably twenty minutes too long, I wouldn’t change a single thing about this film, and that’s the truth of it all.

All in all, I don’t know what more I can say about Fences. It is a very simple, yet realistic story made very special by the people that worked on it. It has so much heart, which is evident from what we see in each and every performance in the film itself, and also in what the cast and crew members have to say about the making of the project. No matter what else happens this year, I do not think for a second that we will see another film made with more love and devotion that this one.

I’ll lose no sleep after watching Nocturnal Animals


An art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a sadistic revenge tail.
This story within a story follows art curator Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) as she works her way through a book written and sent to her by her ex-husband. The story follows Tony Hastings (Jake Gyllenhaal) as he and his family set off on a road trip, but have their journey cut short by a bunch of psychotic rednecks who capture his wife and daughter. Tony escapes and spends a night in the desert before making his way to a police station. With Sheriff Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon), Tony makes a grisly discovery, and between them the two get to work on bringing down the gang that hijacked his journey. As she works her way through the novel, Susan finds herself recalling her first marriage, and confronting some of her most deeply bruised demons.

After missing out on Nocturnal Animals in the cinema (don’t you just love limited release films?), I’ve only just gotten round to reviewing the film. Although it required a lot of thinking on my behalf, I did enjoy the film, and it wasn’t just the lead actor who swung it for me. There was handful of great performances to deliver the story to us, and director Tom Ford completely pulled off the ambitious narrative style the film opts for.

Amy Adams made her second major appearance of the last year with her performance as Susan. Straightaway, I will say that for me personally, she wasn’t as strong here as I thought she was in Arrival. For the most part of her time as Susan, Adams gave a brooding performance as her character reflected back on a former life. She was good, just not as good as I thought she was in her other film from 2016.

Jake Gyllenhaal was great as Tony Hastings, although let’s face it, I am slightly biased on this point. he played a desperate man and was really riveting to watch as he teamed up with Michael Shannon’s Bobby Andes to try to bring his wife and daughter’s killers to justice.

That brings me onto the two supporting performances nicely. Shannon was terrific as the sheriff. He practically stole every scene he was in, and I would say that he is fully deserving of the Oscar nomination he received for his work. Aaron Taylor-Johnson was also brilliant as Ray Marcus, but I don’t think he was quite the psychopath a lot of people made him out to be.

At a first glance, it is quite difficult to see where the two different elements of this film fit together. However, after thinking about it for a while, there are so many ways the two halves can be joined up. The whole film is very open to individual interpretation, and I have no doubt that if I were to watch the film again and again, each time I would find a different way to pick everything apart.

Director Tom Ford has done a wonderful job with this film. I’ve not seen A Single Man, but from what I’ve heard, it would seem that this second film was a fine second project. His fashion designer influence was evident with so many of the shots throughout the film. I may have to sit down and watch his first film after seeing this.

On the whole, Nocturnal Animals is a magnificently dark thriller that I think deserved more recognition than it has received. Due to the nature of it’s non-linear narrative, you do need to watch it with an open mind, but if you do this, I’m pretty certain you will enjoy it.

Manchester By The Sea went swimmingly for me


Following the death of his brother, a man returns to his home town and discovers he has been made the legal guardian of his nephew.
Angry, antisocial Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) works as a janitor in Quincy, Massachusetts. One grey winter day, he gets a phone call to say that his brother is in hospital, and that he should make his way back to the hometown he left behind him years ago as soon as he can as he’s in a bad way. When Lee reaches the hospital, he is greeted with the sad news that he is too late, and that his brother has passed away. As his next of kin, it becomes Lee’s job to sort out his brother’s affairs and tell his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges) about his dad. The two try to adjust to life without the missing member of their family, attempting to deal with their own issues whilst looking after each other. Lee discovers that his brother has outlined that he is to become Patrick’s guardian, and struggles to decide what to do about the situation.

One of my most anticipated films of this year was Manchester By The Sea, and I feel like I had some good foresight by choosing it as one of the films I was most looking forward to. I had high hopes for the performances that were to make up the foundations of the film, and I was not let down. Enjoyable probably isn’t the right word to describe the film, but enjoy watching it is what I did. It isn’t an uplifting watch, but it has some very funny moments dotted throughout, making the whole thing very true to real life.

Casey Affleck is the person I am currently hoping wins the Best Actor award for this year. He gave a brilliant performance as Lee. it was very understated, and most of the emotion he conveyed was done so through his subtle facial expressions. For the most part, he had his hands in his pockets and did a lot of shoulder shrugging, but it was so fitting for his character to do this. Lee had a past that he has constantly tried to escape form, and we find out what it is that haunts him about halfway through the film. Affleck played the part wonderfully, and reminded me of exactly why I think he is one of the most underrated actors working today.

His co-star Lucas Hedges, who is up for Best Supporting Actor alongside him, was equally as good. In his solo scenes, he did a grand job of showing the usual struggles of a teenage kid whilst also trying to deal with the fact that he had just lost his father too. However, he really shone in each scene he had with Affleck. They both nailed the uncle-nephew dynamic they had going on, and this was what led to some of the funniest moments in the film, which were needed otherwise you’d have been seriously depressed by the end of the film.

the only criticism I’d have if you made me pick one was that the film did feel like it had a few pacing issues at times, but given the sheer quality of the performances, I can let this slide. the other question I have to raise is why was Michelle Williams nominated for an Oscar for her performance? She was very good, don’t get me wrong, but she simply was not on-screen long enough to have that sort of an impact on the film in my opinion. 

Overall, Manchester By The Sea is one of my favourites of the nominees I have seen so far this year. It does the simple things unbelievably well, and whilst at times it may feel a bit slow, the top drawer performances from the duo at the centre of this story make it worth staying right until the very end. For me, it was a very touching film that stays very true to how situations like this often play out in real life and it was a joy to watch the other day. I would highly recommend it. 

The Long Riders (my Genre Grandeur entry)


The tale of the Jesse James gang members, their numerous exploits and their individual fates.
The Long Riders is a sympathetic portrayal of the story of the James-Younger gang that undertook a number of legendary bank robberies as way of revenge. The group, headed up by none other than Jesse James (James Keach), had their share of excitement during their time together, and went down in a blaze of glory when some plucky townspeople call time on their raids.

I’ve always been a fan of westerns – I kind of have to be given that my dad is too. I think it’s fair to say that for an 18-year-old girl, I’ve seen quite a few new and old, traditional and contemporary westerns and have enjoyed most of them. When this month’s Genre Grandeur came up, I thought it was right up my street. I had initially thought about watching something with John Wayne or Robert Mitchum in, but decided to venture a little further out in the end. The Long Riders was a decent western, but not one of my favourites, and here’s why.

The cast of this film is quite an ensemble. You have the two Keach brothers, both Quaids and three of the Carradine clan – more than fitting for a film about a gang that is made up of brothers wouldn’t you say? This benefitted the performances so much as there was a lot of real family ties that already existed. The bonds portrayed on screen just felt so genuine, and I think this made the telling of the story so much more enjoyable to watch.

There was plenty of action in this film, especially in the last half an hour or so. While I am a fan of both slow burners and fast paced movies, I perhaps edge slightly further towards the more high-octane westerns. It was really fun to watch when all the shots were being fired, and it let you see the Jesse James gang in all their glory. One of my favourite scenes in the film was when the men were trapped in a cabin by the Pinkertons chasing them, and they had to break their way through the panelling in the back and take a back route to escape. For me, it’s scenes like that that encapsulate the old west – big shoot-outs and the heroes escaping by the skin of their teeth.

I do have one big issue with the film, however, and while it may seem like a minor detail, it was a big issue for me. Some of the transitions from scene to scene were a bit rushed. the biggest example I can give you of this is at the end of the film when Jesse meets his maker. The big moment happens, and then straightaway the shot cut to the scene of Frank James, played by Stacy Keach, handing himself over to the authorities. This took away so much of the impact of what was one of the biggest blows the film dealt in my opinion, and I really wish that more time had been spent of making the change more meaningful.

All in all, as much as I enjoyed The Long Riders, it didn’t make enough of an impression on me to be amongst my favourite westerns. There were some rip-roaring shoot-outs and I loved the family dynamic that was made so wonderful by the fact that the cast consisted of so many brothers. What damaged the film so much in my eyes was some of the dodgy transitions between scenes. It really impacted some of the biggest moments in the film for me, which is why I cannot place it amongst the ranks of El Dorado or The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. Nonetheless, it was worth seeing, and was an hour and a half of my time well spent.

La La Land, whilst not what I expected, is 100% for the dreamers


An aspiring actress and jazz pianist fall for each other in Los Angeles as they pursue their dreams.Mia Dolan (Emma Stone) moved to L.A. from Nevada after dropping out of college in a bid to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. There, she meets Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a guy who wants to one day open his own jazz club to prevent the music style dying out. Both are brought together by their passions, but as they start to get where they’re going, the two are ultimately driven apart by long hours and the miles between them, proving that success doesn’t come without great sacrifice.

So, I got round to seeing La La Land yesterday, and I have to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what all the fuss is about. It wasn’t a bad film, don’t think that for a second, but compared to the films I saw that had been Oscar nominated last year, it wasn’t as good as those.

Both Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have been nominated for acting gongs at the Academy Awards, and Stone has already won a Golden Globe for her performance. Once again, if I’m completely open with you, I don’t think these were especially memorable performances. They weren’t bad, but they just weren’t particularly memorable characters. I did like the chemistry that was very evident between Stone and Gosling, especially during some of their dance numbers. I am also very happy that director Damien Chazelle decided to make use of Gosling’s comedic capabilities that we got to see previously in The Nice Guys. Both worked together very well and put on quite a show, but personally I feel as though I’ve seen more Oscar-worthy performances from each of them.

The music featured throughout was good, but (and hear I go, moaning yet again) for a musical, there wasn’t a stand-out feel-good sing-along track that I’ll be serenading people with for weeks to come. City Of Stars was by far my favourite song of them all, but this wasn’t exactly what I’d call the catchy anthem that La La Land will be remembered for. I think I had been expecting lively songs with vibes similar to those given to us by The Blues Brothers and The Commitments, but instead I got quite a lot of stuff that was far more melancholy than that.

Stone said in her acceptance speech at the Golden Globes that this is a film for dreamers, and that is one thing that I can still say is definitely true after seeing it. You do leave the cinema feeling that what you want to achieve in life is possible, however, the film also does well to point out that you may have to put in long hours in order to do so. This aspect of the film was something that really hit home with me, and if nothing else, I am happy that it sort of offered an encouraging kick up the arse by showing that anything is possible, even when you think you’re down and out.

On the whole, I would say that La La Land is an enjoyable film that most people will like. With regards to the number of Oscars it has been nominated for, I have to say I don’t quite agree with whoever makes these decisions, but I do understand why it has received the critical recognition it has. The film pays tribute to the Golden Age of Hollywood through modern day cinema. It’s a nostalgic homage to days gone by that looks to revive the magic of the past, but in my eyes at least, falls short of greatness.

My review of Arrival has landed


When aliens land across the globe, a linguistics experts is called in to try and decipher the messages sent by the visitors to figure out if they come in peace.
Aliens have landed in twelve different locations on Earth, and linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is asked to join the U.S. army team keeping the situation under control in the States. She is given the task of trying to figure out what it is the aliens want from humanity, but the language they use to communicate is like nothing that has ever been seen before on Earth. As her quest to establish a dialogue with these creatures unfolds, the other countries acting as host to the visitors start to see them as an increasing threat, meaning that it is a race against time to find out if the aliens are friend or foe before total war breaks out.

Considering I’m not a huge sci-fi fan, I’ve seen a decent number of those types of films lately. Arrival is the latest creation from Denis Villeneuve, and I think it’s fair to say that after watching four of his films and enjoying all of those films, I now consider myself to be quite a fan of his work. What I really liked about this film was the fact that what initially seems to be the focus of the film isn’t actually the main event. It just felt a bit different to what I’d imagine so many other alien invasion films to be like.

Amy Adams is terrific here, and the fact that she hasn’t been nominated for an Oscar is a travesty in my honest opinion. She is someone who I think has crept up through the ranks in Hollywood over a number of ranks to be where she is today, and the wait has been well worth it. It was so good to see her as Louise in what was the pivotal role in this film – without her, the world would’ve been destroyed. She was the perfect heroine and I loved every second she was on-screen.

Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker both co-starred alongside Adams here. They both played slightly different characters here, one was in full support of what Louise was trying to do and the other one wasn’t so much. They did good jobs as their characters, but I think the main purpose of them both was to highlight all the brilliance that came with Adams’ character and her performance here.

I said at the start that what I liked so much about this film was the fact that for a long time I thought it was just about an alien invasion, but was actually about something else entirely all along. I thought this was a nice little twist as it meant that the aliens weren’t so much the main event of the film, but were more of a tool to get the end product. I also loved the idea that the sole focus of the film wasn’t dead science-y. The way this whole language puzzle came about was really interesting for me to watch, and while some of the linguistics stuff went over my head as much as the science would have done, it was quite nice to delve into the details of something like language for once.

Overall, Arrival was one of those films that was a pleasant surprise for me to watch, and has certainly encouraged me to see a few more in this sub-genre of sci-fi. The characters and the themes made it feel really accessible for me as it wasn’t 100% science, and director Denis Villeneuve has well and truly cemented himself among my favourite filmmakers now. I would even go as far as saying that I could be persuaded to see the new Blade Runner film when it comes out given he is directing. Not a bad review from someone who isn’t the biggest fan of science-fiction, wouldn’t you say?

The Accountant was a good addition to my Saturday afternoon


A gifted mathematician starts uncool into the books for a new client as the Treasury Department closes in on him.Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is a man with a better affinity for numbers than people. On the surface, it would seem that he is your standard run-of-the-mill accountant, but dig a little deeper an you’ll find that he does some freelance work fixing the finances of some of the world’s biggest organised crime rings. He takes on a legitimate client in the shape of Living Robotics just as the Treasury Department’s Crime Enforcement Division headed up by Ray King (JK Simmons) begins to investigate his actions. However, as Christian sheds some light on the missing finances of his latest customer, he finds that not everything is quite what it first appeared to be.

So I finally got round to watching The Accountant this afternoon, and I have to say I enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s one of those proper action films that we have struggled to come across of late, but has bit of a twist as it’s main protagonist is somewhere on the autistic spectrum. This was something that provided a fresher take on a genre that you could say has been worn fairly thin with some diabolical releases in recent years.

I had been looking forward to seeing Ben Affleck take on the role of Christian Wolff since I saw the trailer for this film months ago. I had faith that he could get it right and finally redeem himself after fans all over the world lost their confidence in him after watching a film that came out earlier on in 2016. Admittedly, he didn’t provide the performance that I thought he would – I had expected something a couple of rungs down from Rain Man, but instead I was presented with someone who appeared to only suffer from occasional lapses in private. After thinking about it a bit, however, I think this worked far better than what I was expecting would have done, and so hats off to Affleck for what was a great performance.

The Accountant had a solid storyline with a couple of little treats right towards the end that kept me interested right until the credits started rolling. It was nice that the film didn’t get lost in a convoluted plot that was way too ambitious for it, something that I think some action thrillers have fallen foul of in the past, especially during the last few years. The fact that this story was relatively easy to keep pace with made the film all the more enjoyable, which I think some filmmakers would do well to bear in mind at times.

That being said, there were a couple of characters that I must say didn’t feel totally necessary. Anna Kendrick as Dana Cummings was good, don’t get me wrong, but the film could have survived without her. It just felt as though the writers had tried to force something into the story that wasn’t needed. I think I would have much preferred it if they had come up with some other reason for why Christian was intent on pursuing this case to the bitter end. Alas, for all it’s other saving graces, I can’t complain too much.

Overall, The Accountant is a good action film that would be ideal for a night in on the sofa after a hard week at work. It didn’t require too much thinking, was terrifically entertaining, and had some decent performances to boot. I’d say order a takeaway and turn in for the night – it would be time well spent.