Review – A Walk Among The Tombstones


I think I may have witnessed the best film Liam Neeson has been in in recent years.

A Walk Among The Tombstones is a 2014 crime drama following tormented ex-cop turned private investigator Matt Scudder, played here by the good man himself Mr Neeson. The story sees Matt trying to catch the criminal masterminds behind the disappearances of a series of women, whilst also dealing with a few demons of his own. Granted, this is the kind of character that’s been done to death over the years, but there are reasons why these types of guys are a popular choice – they work. Is it playing it safe? Quite possibly. However, over-complicating things is so often the downfall of many films and the people behind them. It was nice to see simple done well here, with a number of things attributing to my enjoyment of the film.

We’ll start with characters and the performances of the people who played them. Obviously we have Neeson playing our hero here. As Matt, he was your typical tough guy, pulling all the old tricks in order to comprehend suspects. I liked the fact that there was a touch of Dirty Harry about Matt. In fact, the whole film felt like an homage to these kinds of old school cop films which is definitely something that helped it garner my affections. It was a role that I think suited Neeson down to the ground. He didn’t feel like an ageing action man trying to stay relevant. Instead, he took on a solid role, put in a shift, and made sure it paid off.

Something else that made it easy to like Neeson in this film was the chemistry he shared with Astro, who played TJ, Matt’s wannabe partner. It was a such a likeable pairing. There was a lot of tough love handed out between them, which could serve to make you laugh but was also a reminder of the harsh setting of the film, which was New York circa 1999. I think the addition of TJ into the mix humanised Matt a lot. When he was around, Matt became more of a father figure as opposed to hardened, seen it all cop. Likewise, Matt’s presence transformed TJ. Both performances were very complimentary of each other, bringing out the best in either actor.

One thing I absolutely loved about this film is the look of it. The dull, dreary tones really suited the story and the characters. Everything seems to have a layer of grey cast over it, meaning you were never allowed to forget about the dark nature of the crimes at the centre of the story. This was also something that felt like a nod to the detective stories of yesteryear, which was a nice touch.

Also owing to the gorgeous appearance of this film is the cinematography. Having done the work I have done for the last year now I can honestly say that I would be so proud of myself if i had captured so many of the shots that make up this film. Some of it was genuinely stunning to look at.

A Walk Among The Tombstones turned out to be a far more pleasant surprise than I had anticipated it to be. It’s a film I really enjoyed and wouldn’t mind too much if we got a follow-up to it, although I doubt that’ll happen. It looked good, and did so many of the people who featured in it a lot of favours. Neeson is, I think, the best he’s been in a long time, and glides into the seasoned cop role effortlessly. This is absolutely worth the watch if you’ve missed it up until now.

Review – Charismata


The film is about a female detective following a Satanic cult murder case. As she begins to uncover more bodies and more details, she starts to become obsessed with the darkness of the case and the possibility that the potential suspect is trying to victimise her. As she, and those around her, begin to question her sanity, it’s clear there is more to lose than just her life.So, Charismata. This is a film that I think shows there is a lot of potential for the people involved to go onto bigger things, especially writers and directors Andy Collier and Tor Mian. However, I do think there are little tweaks that need to be made, as there were a few things that I struggled with whilst I was watching the film.

One of the biggest problems I had was with the characters. I simply didn’t like them. There were no obvious redeeming characteristics for me to cling onto with them, and personally this is something I need to really be able to get behind the story and the film. For example, the character of Rebecca Farraway had such a huge chip on her shoulder. She was too stubborn for her own good. I like strong female characters and am all for more of them being written, but she didn’t know when to ask for help and this led to a lot of unnecessary hardship coming her way. The same thing kind of goes for the Eli Smith character, as well as many of the other men. There was a lot of male bravado floating around, and it was hard to get past this. I think had the more negative qualities possessed by these characters been toned down a bit and accompanied by a bit more humility, it may have been a different story.

That being said, I quite liked much of the rest of the film. The storyline had Se7en vibes, but didn’t feel like a rip-off of the film. It took the idea and put it’s own twist on it, and I liked that because with a film as great as Se7en, the temptation would be to copy it, but here it seemed to inspire something different altogether. Of course, the filmmakers themselves may not have been influenced by it at all. Either way, the story was a winner for me. It needs polishing a bit just to take it to the next level, but what the writers did with it was not a bad idea. I also liked the psychological element of the film, and liked how big a part it had. What I thought worked so well here was that it felt fairly realistic that Rebecca was having all the hallucinations that she was because of the line of work she was in. It was believable and this made it easy to watch and go along with.

Overall, Charismata was a decent psychological horror film. It needs a bit of work doing to it, mainly where the characters are concerned so that you can find yourself being a bit more supportive of them, but generally it is not a bad effort at all. The storyline worked very well in it’s favour, and it’s psychological themes were also effective. I don’t know if I’d watch the film again, but I certainly don’t regret seeing it.

Review – Room


After spending the past five years locked away in a kidnapper’s shed, a little boy and his mother finally get out and are able to reacquaint themselves with the world.
When she was seventeen, Joy Newson (Brie Larson) was kidnapped on her way home from school. For seven years she was held hostage by her kidnapper in his garden shed, and gave birth to his child, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), after two years in captivity. Joy and Jack survived together for five years in the shed, until one day Joy decided the time had come where they had an opportunity to get out. She constructs an escape plan which heavily involves her son, and when the mission is completed, the two, especially Jack, find that things on the outside are more different than they expected. 

I’d heard that Room was supposed to be a phenomenal watch, and I had also heard that it had brought a tear to the eyes of many viewers. To be honest, I’m surprised that it has taken me until now to see the film, but I will say that after finally seeing it, that wait has been well worth it. I will also say that the film manage to stir up emotions within myself that I was not even sure existed. If you’re in the mood for a full on ugly cry, this is probably a film you should consider.

There are some incredibly powerful performances in Room, brought to you by Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay. The two of them got the whole mother/son dynamic perfect, and it felt like a really authentic relationship for the entire time you were watching them. Larson nailed the patience needed by Joy whilst she was locked in the shed, and the innocence shown by Jacob Tremblay as Jack towards the idea of a huge world outside of his own existence was clear to see. I found that it was Tremblay’s performance that provoked the greatest reaction from me at various points throughout the film (one such point was when he set eyes on a real dog for the first time, I’m still not over it). However, the scene where Joy was reunited with her father for the first time since she disappeared was also a significant one for me, and once again, tissues were needed.

I have to whole-heartedly praise Emma Donoghue for her writing of both the novel and the screenplay, and with that I also take my hat off to whoever had the idea of keeping the same writer for both. The emotions that are brought to the surface by the characters she created are like a punch in the face. There is no escaping them, meaning even the most hardened non-criers such as myself find themselves reduced to tear stained ruins by the end of the film.

Director Lenny Abrahamson did a fantastic job with the making of this film. I’ve read about all the struggles that were presented to the cast and crew by the task of filming such a huge proportion of the film in the confines of the shed that Joy and Jack were kept in. It does not sound as though the first month of filming was a breeze. However, I think Abrahamson’s belief in the story was shown by his persistence and determination that they would succeed in filming those scenes within those four walls, which, if you are aware of it, I think gives you even greater faith in the film as you watch it.

So, would I recommend Room? Well, it’s not remotely like anything that I’ve personally watched before, nor has any other film made me such an emotional wreck on numerous occasions before. The performances are on a new level altogether (I forgot to mention it, but Larson won a Best Actress Oscar for her part, although I’m sure you already knew that), and really work to bring to life the feelings that the script is absolutely sodden with. I’ve already been recommending it to people, and I wouldn’t think twice about sitting down to watch it again myself. 

Review – A Most Violent Year


In 1981, an ambitious immigrant living the American dream has to fight to protect his family and his business in New York City’s most violent year in history.The winter of 1981 was statistically the most violent year for New York City. At this time, Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac), an immigrant who has made a life for himself in America, finds everything he has worked for under attack from rivals and those apparently in charge of justice in the city. He struggles to keep on top of everything that is being thrown at him whilst staying within the constraints of the law. Meanwhile, Abel also owes money to some big people, and with the interest currently being paid to him by the law, no one will loan him the money to pay them off. Abel’s wife Anna (Jessica Chastain), offers to ask her father for help, but the business man is intent on sticking to his morals, no matter what.

A Most Violent Year is one of the many films that I had been meaning to watch for a long time, so when I discovered that it was on Netflix last weekend, I made it my business to see it. I could remember having seen a review of the film when it was out in the cinemas a couple of years ago saying that it was a very slick gangster drama, so it was a title that had been stuck in my mind since then. Upon finally sitting down and watching it, I have to say that I was very impressed.

There were two brilliant lead performances here. Oscar Isaac was on another level as Abel, and I’m not exaggerating one bit when I say that, for me, his portrayal of the businessman was reminiscent of Michael Corleone from the one and only Godfather trilogy, yet didn’t feel at all like a cheap imitation. Jessica Chastain was every bit his equal as Anna, who proved exactly why she is one of my favourite actresses. Her character was such a huge part of the film, and I feel like she represented the battle that Abel fought every day in the way that she tended to take extreme action first and then think much later on, as opposed to his very collected way of weighing up the situation before dealing with it. As I’ve already said, both of these performances were terrific, complimenting each other completely, and also going way under the radar with so many people.

The story here is one that is really quite typical of the gangster genre, but as mentioned before, the film managed to present this story in a way that it didn’t feel as though it was ripping off any of the legendary films that came before it. It is plain as day that A Most Violent Year takes much of it’s inspiration from films such as The Godfather, however it maintains a sense of it’s own originality throughout, which is what I though was so great. A fine example of this can be seen with the very active role that Anna takes in the business, which is not usually the case with the women in these types of film.

All in all, A Most Violent Year was a good choice to watch last weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, which was made so wonderful by the captivating performances that led it. It was also nice to see the nods to other films in the genre that had so clearly shaped how this turned out. It is a film I’d recommend to people for the simple fact that it was very entertaining despite some of it’s more serious themes, some of which are more relevant than ever in today’s climate. So, what are you waiting for?

Make sure you check out my post about the upcoming Play To The Whistle Blogathon if you missed it yesterday!

Review – Hell Or High Water

A divorced father and his loose cannon older brother resort to desperate measures in a bid to save the family ranch in West Texas.

Following the death of their mother, unemployed oil and gas worker Toby Howard (Chris Pine) and his ex-con older brother Tanner (Ben Foster) begin to rob banks so as not to lose her ranch to the Texas Midland Bank. Meanwhile, ageing Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) is nearing retirement, but is intent on seeing out the case with his partner Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham). Together, they try to figure out the well-intentioned bank robbers’ next moves, resulting in an intense showdown.

One of my most anticipated films from what is now last year was Hell Or High Water. The trailer had taken my fancy a while before it had been released in cinemas, but as it was I never made the trip. Well, I finally got to see the film the other day, and I have to say it was well worth the wait. It didn’t quite turn out to be what I had expected, although what that was I’m not quite sure even now after watching the film. What I do know, however, is that I was very impressed by what I saw.

As good as I thought Chris Pine was here, I’m going to refrain from talking about him for the simple reason that people will only read so many words before jumping ship, so I would rather focus on the two ‘supporting’ actors in this review. Ben Foster was excellent as Tanner Howard. He gave an enthralling performance as the ex-con who you kind of felt was going robbing the banks with his brother to make up for all the time he spent in prison, unable to help care for their mother. So many people are talking about awards for this film, and who will get those awards. I am not overly familiar with Foster’s work, but would personally love to see him gain all the recognition he deserves for the stellar work he put in here.

Jeff Bridges was that other ‘supporting’ actor who is the other contender for those prestigious awards I would think. It was another very strong performance in a film that really did consist of some masterful acting. He portrayed Texas Ranger who had seen it all and was now facing the prospect of retirement and not looking forward to it – a character not too dissimilar to that of Tommy Lee Jone’s Ed Tom Bell in No Country For Old Men, another contemporary western that I would highly recommend. Again, it was a display of terrific acting that fully deserves every award it is nominated for should the powers that be decide Bridges was the supporting actor here.

This film is one that you savour as you watch it. It is a wonderful, brooding slow-burner of a film, and this allows you fully take in every part of what is put in front of you. The dialogue and the way it was delivered by the people it was given to was a wondrous thing. The landscapes captured by the cinematographers were breath-taking. There isn’t really a part of this film I could fault, if I’m completely honest with you, and I think that really says all anyone needs to know, because if there’s something for me to complain about, I don’t tend to be backwards in coming forwards about it, do I?

Overall, Hell or High Water is a beautifully made contemporary western that sits proudly amongst many of the westerns that have been made of late. It is easily one of the better ones that are leading the resurgence in the genre, and if this is how filmmakers mean to go on, they have my full support. This would be a great film particularly for people around my age, who perhaps have avoided westerns for being a dated style of film. The contemporary sub-genre is one that hold a lot of promise in my opinion, and is an excellent gateway to the other, more classically formulated films, as this film proves very well.

Review – Saw: The Final Chapter


A deadly battle rages over Jigsaw’s legacy while the past of yet a Jigsaw survivor comes back to bite him.The man now in charge of the notorious investigation is Detective Matt Gibson (Chad Donella), who is trying to track down a psychotic Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) just as Jigsaw’s widow Jill Tuck (Betsy Russell) is also trying to kill him. However, both Jill and Gibson fail miserably in their objectives. She runs to Gibson offering to list every crime committed by Hoffman in return for full immunity. Meanwhile, Jigsaw survivor Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery) is taken alongside his wife and entourage for one last game.

I finally made it! The last furlong in the franchise has been completed, and it kind of made Saw VI worth it. It had one of the same major faults as the last two films have, but all loose ends were tied up sensibly, so I can’t really ask for more than that.

There weren’t really any performances that stood out for me. There were no new characters brought into the mix that stuck in my mind, and Hoffman wasn’t really in it that much for me to talk about Costas Mandylor’s role in the films for one final time.

It was that same disjointed feeling the story had that was what let the whole thing down so much. Just the final showdown elements would have been enough – I could have lived quite happily for the rest of my life without having been introduced to Bobby Dagen. As I’ve been saying in my last couple of reviews, the films have been feeling like they are two halves very lazily put together.

However, there were elements of Saw: The Final Chapter that I was very much a fan of. To start with, we found out what happened to Dr. Lawrence Gordon after he escaped that disused bathroom right at the beginning of the saga. Cary Elwes made a return, and finally, so many of life’s big questions were answered for me.

Then there was the demise of Jill Tuck – something I was absolutely thrilled about! She was easily the character I disliked the most in the whole franchise. The only criticism I have regarding this matter is the fact that it couldn’t have happened in Saw III when we first met the delightful woman.

I’ll admit that I was left quite contented by the way Saw: The Final Chapter rounded off the franchise. In fact, the films in general were quite enjoyable for me. For the most part, the story was alright, but the biggest thing for me was the fact that the majority of the characters who appeared were actually in possession of a brain – something that I have discovered is quite a rarity in many horror films. It is for that reason that I would recommend the franchise to people, but would be mindful to tell them that the longer you stick with the films, the more… open-minded you need to be with them.

Review – Saw VI


Strahm is dead, but the FBI are still closing in on Hoffman. Meanwhile, somebody else who is unappreciative of life finds themselves caught up in the game.The body of agent Peter Strahm has been disassembled back into flat-pack form, and it would appear that the world’s worst detective, Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), is now home and dry as Jigsaw’s (Tobin Bell) successor. Just to be safe though, Hoffman goes above and beyond to attempt to frame Strahm as Jigsaw’s little helper. However, he gets a shock when he finds out that Strahm’s partner, Lindsey Perez (Athena Karkanis) didn’t actually die in a previous trap – a potential problem as she doesn’t believe her late partner was capable of doing what he is being accused of. The net then begins to tighten around Hoffman when the FBI set to work on unscrambling a tape left at one of the previous murder scenes – the one thing that could solidly confirm his involvement. Elsewhere, the unethical CEO of a health insurance company finds himself being put to the test after gambling with other people’s lives as a career.

Okay, I’ll pre-warn you that I can feel a rant coming on here. Yes, one similar to that I embarked upon about The Hills Have Eyes. I watched Saw VI. It was inevitable that as I worked my way through the franchise, they were gradually going to get worse. Holy God though. I had severely underestimated how bad they could get.

I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time talking about performances here. The one performance I like was that by Costas Mandylor, and I spoke about that in my last review. This, of course, leaves the insurance CEO who I cared so little about that I don’t even know his name, nor the face of the bloke who played him, so I couldn’t really talk about him even if I’d have wanted to.

My main question is what was this film actually trying to do besides rob movie-goers of their money? I am somewhat bemused by the objectives this film set out to achieve. There was no longer the great Strahm/Hoffman face-off going on as they decided to kill of one half of that double act in the last film, so I wasn’t really that invested in the storyline anymore either. They then tried to be clever by bringing back a character who had previously been killed – or so we thought. I wasn’t that impressed by the return of agent Perez. To be honest, I think my reaction to the revelation was about on a par with Hoffman’s.

At this point, I am also so over this idea that the Jigsaw squad are out to teach people a lesson about how they should value life. I feel like once the FBI got brought in in film four, the writers should have fully broken away from the original concept. I mean, they attempted it, but the little subplots such as the Fatal Five in the last film, and then the insurance guy in this one makes it feel as though the filmmakers don’t really know what other direction they could take the story in. For me, watching the same thing for the sixth time with only a tiny bit of plot progression was boring. Plus, it feels like there is a reliance on putting an individual through the mill for some part of the film. It’s as if the writers know that the general storyline has swayed so far from what it once was, yet they’re still trying to market the franchise on what it used to be. They needed to choose one or the other if you ask me, because the storyline consisting of traps that were used as weapons against Jigsaw’s pursuers alongside the traps that supposedly taught life lessons did not work for me. Or, if they were that insistent on keeping those two aspects of the story alive, they should have at least made more of an effort to weave the two together.

On the whole, it is with a not-so heavy heart that I have to tell you that Saw VI is easily the worst film of the franchise so far. It cannot survive on just one character, and fails in trying to tell this part of the story which you could say has gotten too big for it to even know what it is about anymore. However, I’ve come this far – Saw 3D (or The Final Chapter) will still be watched. After all, it can’t be any morse than this… surely?