No Shame in admitting this is a very interesting film


A man with a carefully managed private life has everything thrown into disarray when his sister stops with him for an indefinite stay.
Sex-dependent Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a functioning addict. He hides behind the facade of a good job and swanky apartment doing whatever he has to to manage his addiction in between frequent hook-ups with women he often just picks out during his commute on the subway. However, one evening he arrives home to find his sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan), has taken up residence in his apartment, and suddenly the micro-managed life he has worked so hard to maintain comes crashing down. His private life and work life begin to blur into one another, and slowly but surely Brandon begins to lose the little bit of control he had.

So, I watched Shame. I’m a fan of Michael Fassbender, so it was only a matter of time before I saw it. It’s a, shall we say, interesting film, there’s no denying that. I don’t really know what I was expecting to be completely honest – it’s not like it said in the film’s description that it was about a sex addict or anything like that. 

No matter what the film’s subject matter was though, I knew that with Fassbender heading up the cast I was in safe hands. Does he ever give a bad performance? There were times I found him quite uncomfortable to watch, although I have to admit I’d imagine this would have been far worse had I decided to watch the film with my parents. I feel as though Fassbender really captured the desperation that comes with any addition very well indeed, and the reason it was perhaps so hard to watch at times was because it felt so realistic. Maybe my blushes were a sign of a good job on his part.

Carey Mulligan was just as good as Fassbender, and is probably the unsung hero of the whole film. She plays the one person who Brandon manages to have a serious relationship with (not THAT kind of relationship though, I am talking purely brother and sister, no more than that). She is the only person who really seems able to humanise him in any way, which I think is important because otherwise it would be all too easy to view him with disgust. Her and Fassbender share one scene in particular in the film that is absolutely tremendous. It was shot in one take and I think epitomises the way things are between the two of them.

There wasn’t a storyline as such as this was more of a character study than anything else. There was no major antagonist in the film at all, it was just a case of Brandon being his own worst enemy. It was a very intriguing study if I’m honest, I don’t recall ever having watched a film centred around addiction like this before. In my eyes, it was very original.

The writing behind it was also… I’d say good, but for how it left me feeling about Fassbender afterwards, I’m not entirely sure that would be the right word. All I’ll say is I’m going to have to go to church a few times after what he said. I did cringe a bit, but I guess that’s just a sign of how impactful writer and director Steve McQueen’s work was.

While I might not be overly certain about what to make of Shame, I can’t deny that it had quite a handful of positives going for it, and I’d say that my uncertainty about my feelings towards the film is probably a sign of how successful it was in gaining a reaction from audiences. It isn’t a film I’ll be recommending to my parents to watch, so that should be reasonably indicative of the content to be found here, but it does shed a light on human nature, whilst also proving that Michael Fassbender is a gifted man in more ways than one.

The Gift fully delivered


A young married couple have their live’s thrown into disarray when an acquaintance from the husband’s past turns up and reveals a horrific secret about him.
When husband and wife Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) move from Chicago to California, one of the first things they do is head to a home furnishings store. There, they bump into Gordo (Joel Edgerton), a man who seems to Simon, despite Simon not being sure that he’s ever met him before in his life. Through a series of unplanned meetings at their new home, Simon realises that he went to school with Gordo, and that events from their childhood may have had an adverse effect on him. Simon tries to convince Robyn not to worry, however still unnerved, she decides to do some digging of her own. When she finds out what exactly unfolded between the two men years ago, she’s not entirely sure who the bad guy is anymore.

The Gift is one of those films that I had heard a lot of good things about, so was eager to watch it in order to see what all the fuss was about. I have to say, for a film that was shown in trailers to be a bit jumpy, I had half expected it to fall flat, despite the rave reviews. I can happily inform you, however, that it fully delivered on what was promised, with everything culminating in a horrifically twisted ending that will leave you questioning who the real villain was yourself.

I quite enjoyed all the performances here. Jason Bateman, or, as someone kindly pointed out to me via Twitter, Jason Great-man, played a good part as Simon, as did Joel Edgerton as Gordo. I mention them both together because in a way, they took on similar roles. I couldn’t really be sure about either of them for the whole film. I think they complemented each other’s characters really well, and a few of the scenes where the pair sized each other up were majorly intense.

Speaking of intense, something this film was very gifted (you’re welcome) at was building tension. You may or may not be aware by now that I am a jumper, and I will have you know that I watched this film late at night – an excellent combination I later discovered! The mix of the dimly lit shots plus the use of only the film score alongside the overall tone of the film made for a very eerie atmosphere, and just like lighting follows a clap of thunder, this eventually culminated in a jump scare that got me every single time. 

I have to give full credit to Edgerton. Not only did he star in the film as a terrific character, but he also wrote AND directed the whole thing as well. I’ve seen people give themselves this workload before, but usually one part of it is at least slightly below the standard the other two meet. Edgerton, however, handled all three components masterfully here, proving that what I’ve heard from fellow bloggers and human beings is true – he is a very talented man, and one that I shall be keeping an eye on for the foreseeable future.

Overall, I have to say I’d recommend The Gift to people, in fact, I already had before writing this post. For a film that just seemed to pop up out of nowhere, it does alright. One thing it knows how to do is build an atmosphere, whether that be through pitting characters against each other or the use of all resources involved in making the film. It’s a good watch, and one that proved to me that once a jumper, always a jumper.

Winter’s Bone gives you plenty to chew on


An Ozark mountain girl is forced to go in search of her drug-dealing father when the safety of her family is threatened.In the Ozark mountain community, Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) has to raise her younger brother and sister and care for her mentally-ill mother. All she has to help her is the house she lives in, and when her drug-dealing father fails to show in court, her and her family risk losing it. The only way to prevent the imminent seizure of assets is if Ree can find her father. She embarks on her search, but encounters much resistance from the community, amongst which Ree’s father had made a lot of enemies, meaning that her quest for the survival of her family may not be an easy one.

I’d heard a lot of good things about Winter’s Bone prior to watching it. Some people say that it is the one Oscar nomination Jennifer Lawrence has received that nobody can argue with, and that the story is a very gritty, realistic one. After watching the film, I have to say I completely agree with both of the above statements.

At the age of nineteen, Lawrence did a wonderful job as Ree. I am a fan of her work, and I do think that we will see a lot of very impressive performances from her for years to come, but this was a very good (I guess you could say breakout?) role. Part of me wishes that this had been the first film of hers that I had seen just because the element of anonymity would have increased the overall authenticity of her character, but I can’t say really that my prior knowledge of Lawrence’s work detracted very much at all. She completely captured the grit, determination and also desperation of Ree, who ultimately was just trying to keep her family together. 

John Hawkins (who I’m currently enjoying in the very early episodes of Deadwood) played Ree’s uncle, Teardrop. I loved his performance because, although he was a hard man, he had his priorities right and did what he had to do in order to protect his family. There was something quite lovely about the bond that became evident between him and Ree as the film progressed, which added buckets to the film.

What really caught my eye whilst watching this film was the cinematography and the colours within the shots. The landscapes that were captured were beautiful, yet the lack of bright colours conveyed the bleakness that was such a huge part of life for these people. I also feel like the two together also said something far more profound than what I can find words for about the story, which was rather straightforward, but told incredibly well. The characters were all very realistic, and the whole thing reflected the harshness of life, regardless of whether its in the mountains or not, very well indeed. There was just such a great sense of realism surrounding the piece that there were times I found myself thinking that the whole thing could actually have been based on actually events because it was nothing out of the ordinary, yet very riveting to watch.

Seven Psychopaths was a bit shih tzu


An L.A. screenwriter finds himself caught up in some dodgy dealings when a mob boss’s dog goes missing, however the events that take place may just help to cure his writer’s block.Marty (Colin Farrell) is a struggling screenwriter who may or may not have a mild drinking problem. He is inadvertently dragged into an L.A. underworld crime saga when his slightly mad friends kidnap the beloved shih tzu of mob boss Charlie (Woody Harrelson). What follows is a series of events that provide Marty with plenty of inspiration for a story for the big screen, if he manages to get out alive, that is.

Seven Psychopaths is a film from director Martin MacDonagh, a man whose work I am quite familiar with after seeing films such as The Guard and In Bruges. I had high hopes for this as I really enjoyed the two aforementioned films, however I was actually quite disappointed by it. Part of me thinks this was due to a certain name being absent from the cast, however I also think another reason was because the story was just a bit too big compared to what I had previously seen from him.

A couple of the performances here were alright though. Sam Rockwell as Billy was fun to watch. He was a total loose cannon, and you never really knew what you were going to get from him. Rockwell made Billy a very unhinged character, and because of this the story moved along a fair bit whenever he was present, which I have to be honest was needed at a few points throughout.

Christopher Walken, no matter what he is in, is always a treat for me to watch. There is something about him that just makes me laugh a lot. I think it’s the deadpan expression he so often has on his face. As Hans, he was easily one of the better characters in this film, largely due to this talent he has. He was probably the reason I watched the film to the end, just so that I could maximise the amount of time I had looking at that face.

The story, besides the lack of comedic moments I found in the film, was the biggest downfall here. It just felt like it tried too hard to be way bigger than it needed to be. I did struggle with following the narrative at times, but really the main issue was I didn’t really care that much to even try and stay focused on it. What was even harder for me to stomach was the fact that I was watching a Martin MacDonagh film without Brendan Gleeson, the usual staple ingredient of films by this director, writer and producer. Perhaps sentimentality got in the way of me completely enjoying it, but this really was something that held much of the film back for me.

All in all, I can’t say I’ll be in a hurry to see Seven Psychopaths again. There’s nothing that particularly sticks in my mind after seeing it, which is not something that happened with either of the two films I had previously seen by this director. Maybe if it wasn’t for the expectations I already had, this wouldn’t have been as bad as I’m making it out to be now, but alas, it had standards to meet, and it failed rather miserably in meeting those.

127 Hours was not what I had hoped it would be


When an avid climber and canyon wanderer gets trapped by a rock, he quite literally has to cut himself loose.
Back in April 2003, climber and canyoneer Aron Rolston (James Franco) headed off down the Blue John Canyon without telling anyone. The trip was going well, and he got himself invited to a party, but when a huge rock fell on him, trapping his right arm, things took a rough turn. As the hours turned into days, and the rock didn’t budge, Aron’s mind began to play games with him. In a moment of clarity, however, he realised what he had to do, and after seeing his tale of survival, we can all learn something.

127 Hours is one of the many films that I have wanted to see for a long time, and is now another that I can cross off my list. I have to be honest and say that unlike some of my other long-awaited watches I have seen recently, this one wasn’t as worth the build-up. Yes, it is an amazing story it has to tell, but it had some serious pacing issues that stopped me enjoying it as much as I potentially could have done.

The film was nominated for six Oscars, and one of the people included in these nominations was James Franco for his portrayal of Aron throughout this journey. I don’t know whether this will be an unpopular opinion or not, but I didn’t think his performance was all that special. That’s not saying it was bad, not at all, but it just didn’t grab me in the way I’d have liked it to. He had some stand out moments though, mainly during the scenes where he recorded the video messages that the real Aron did throughout the ordeal. These moments were spread too thinly for my liking however – had there have been more of them I may have stayed more in touch with the film. Unfortunately, this just wasn’t the case.

There is no denying that this is an extraordinary story, but again, it wasn’t told in a way that really took hold of me and refused to let go until it was over. I struggled with the sequences where Aron’s insanity took over. They made the film feel very choppy if you ask me, making it hard for me to focus on the main part of the narrative.

On the whole, while I appreciate what everyone was trying to do when making 127 Hours, their efforts were kind of lost on me. I just really struggled sticking with it, evident in the number of times I kept checking how long was left to run. Perhaps the film’s chances were plighted by the troubles I had with Netflix whilst trying to watch the film – maybe this played some part in it, but somehow I think not all the issues I had with 127 Hours could be put down to this. I watched it to the end, but it’s not something I could personally recommend. 

Danny Collins was music to my ears


An ageing musician receives a letter that was written to him by John Lennon 40 years ago and embarks on a mission to find himself.
Danny Collins (Al Pacino), a rocker in his twilight years, is living it up and struggling to veer away from his life of chaos and luxury, although it is clear to see that he is fundamentally unhappy. When his manager, Frank Grubman (Christopher Plummer) hands him a letter that was written 40 years prior by the one and only John Lennon, Danny takes a long hard look at the position he’s in and decides to change his ways… or at least try to. He tracks down his long-lost son Tommy (Bobby Cannavale) and discovers he has a whole family he didn’t know about. Danny is determined to be a part of their lives, but can he keep his feet on the ground long enough to do this?

The Easter holidays seem to have consisted of revision and catching up with a number of films that I have been meaning to watch for a long time. Another film that I managed to get crossed off the list was Danny Collins, one of Al Pacino’s most recent works (is there any need for me to explain why I wanted to watch this?). I found it to be a really warm, and at times, very funny story based on events that actually kind of happened!

In recent years, we’ve had to get used to some rather mediocre performances in some pretty mid-range films from Pacino. It pains me to say that because he is a favourite of mine after all. I had, however, heard positive things about about is performance at the time of this film’s release, so I had hope for this. I totally enjoyed seeing Pacino in this role. As Danny, he gave such a heart-warming performance for us, and was such a treat to watch. There was so much charisma on display here and it was wonderful to see.

Annette Bening was every part Pacino’s equal in the film as well. She was brilliant as Hilton hotel manager Mary Sinclair who taught Danny about the simpler things in life. The scenes she shared with Pacino were phenomenal, and the film was helped along by a huge lift whenever these unfolded. Bening also gave a charming performance, and was quite literally a joy to watch.

I have to be honest and say that the story is nothing ground-breaking, in fact, you might go as far as to say that it was actually quite generic. For me though, that made no difference. It was just one of those films that I could sit back and enjoy without burning out the ol’ brain cells. There were some very comical moments, but also some very touching ones too. I’d say the best way to describe it is that it’s bit of a crowd pleaser as there is something here that will suit the majority of audiences.

Overall, I can’t not recommend Danny Collins to you. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, and admit without a shred of guilt whatsoever that it was well worth the amount of time I waited to see it. It’s a film that was so easy-going, but at the same time managed to say something rather profound without forcing the message down your throat. It would never have won any Oscars, but more often than not, the prestigious awards are not the only signs of a worthwhile film, as seems to be the case here.

Cockneys VS Zombies was an absolute riot!


When zombies take over the East End of London, it’s up to a rag-tag bunch of twenty-somethings and a group of pensioners to save the city.
When a group of inept criminals, led by Andy (Harry Treadaway) and Terry (Rasmus Hardiker) decide to rob a bank in order to save their grandfather Ray’s (Alan Ford) retirement home, they don’t count on the dead coming back from the grave to try and stop them. As it turns out, the robbers and their grandfather plus friends may very well be the only hope London has of being saved from an infestation of zombies that takes over in the city in the space of a few hours. The zombies chose the wrong group of cockneys to pick a fight with, however.

You know the phrase, ‘it’s so bad, it’s good’? Well, that perfectly describes this film. The second film I watched as part of the bank holiday afternoon reunion with my best friend was Cockneys VS Zombies, and wasn’t it just wonderful! I’d expected most of the fun to come from the two of us just slagging the film off, but we actually both really enjoyed it. It was a pleasant surprise to say the least.

I can’t say a whole lot about the performances if I’m completely honest. The actors, after all, were all playing characters in a spoof horror. They were all just great fun to watch. Two that stick in my mind are Ashley Thomas as Mental Mickey and Alan Ford (formerly of Snatch and Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels) as Ray. Thomas gifted us with a couple of the moments in the film that had me and my friend absolutely creasing, and I think the purpose of his character was just to push boundaries. He made me laugh a lot, and sometimes that’s all a woman really wants from a man. I suppose I already had a soft spot for Ford before really getting to know his character, but once familiar with Ray I was sure my faith hadn’t been misplaced. He’s just great. His characters never take any messing from anyone, and I think they always show some of the real hard nuts that the East End of London especially is renowned for.

This is a very British film, and while I pride myself on my Irish heritage, there is no getting round the fact that I was born and grew up here, so I’m in touch with the sense of humour displayed here. There is so much in this film that British people will laugh at, mainly because they all know that if a zombie apocalypse was to thrust itself upon the country, this is how it would react. What I also found really cool, and I may have foreshadowed this with my comments on one of the actors, was how it took a few people who had been staples of British TV, particularly in shows that had centred around London’s East End, and then just thrown them into this outlandish situation. It was bloody hilarious!

Now, I can’t believe I’m actually saying this, but if you’re getting a group of friend together for a film night and a few drinks, I can’t recommend strongly enough that Cockneys VS Zombies is one of the films that should be part of it. This is the perfect film for you all to just get together, kick back and chill out with plenty of snacks (chocolate fudge brownie ice cream was our choice) and a few drinks. It requires zero brainpower – in fact, the less you think about it, the better it is- which is the best thing about this film. I’d never have dreamt of watching it before, but now I am so glad that I did.