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.

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.

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.

Drive is a film that fires on all cylinders


A Hollywood stuntman/mechanic with a sideline as a getaway driver for L.A.’s finest criminals finds himself in a spot of trouble when he does a favour for his neighbour.A mystery man (Ryan Gosling) who is a stuntman and mechanic by day, and a getaway driver by night, seemingly looks to get out of the shady life he’s been living when he falls for Irene (Carey Mulligan), whose husband is in prison, and is raising her son alone. Just as it would seem the man is about to get his feet in under the table, Irene’s husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) gets out of prison. However, the driver’s role in their lives is not quite over, as it would seem that Standard got himself into a spot of bother whilst he was in prison, and the people he upset have found their way to him on the outside. When the life of his and Irene’s son is threatened, Standard gets the driver involved in a scheme to get the money he owes to his debtors, but when things take a turn for the worse, the driver is becomes much more deeply involved than he ever usually would intend to get.

One of those films I’ve been meaning to watch for a long time is Drive, and an afternoon catching up with my friend this week just so happened to be the best time to acquaint myself with it. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely! What a film this was – a terrific watch that both me and my best friend thoroughly enjoyed.

Ryan Gosling gives a hugely understated performances as the driver in this film. He was brilliant as the man of few words who was rather talented at getting bad guys out of tight spots. The shortage of dialogue on his part left a lot to be communicated by his body language, and he did so very successfully indeed. One scene in particular at quite a late stage in the film showcased his abilities in this field spectacularly, and made me realise that I should have paid far more attention to Gosling as a serious actor long before now.

What I really loved about this film was how there was such a dramatic change of pace in the second half compared to the beginning, but that’s not to say the first half of the film dragged at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. The start of the film built tension excellently, that culminated in the second part going absolutely mental. I’ve never seen somebody’s head explode in quite the way character’s did, but hey, I guess there’s a first time for everything. The tempo went from 0 to 60 in a heartbeat, changing the tone of the film completely, and keeping you hooked right until the very end.

The film score enhanced the overall atmosphere that came with Drive. As I was watching it, I made sure I paid special attention to the music after what a number of people had told me about it, and I can tell you that everything I was told was true. It really added to the chase scenes, but even in sequences with less action, and those where there were just long shots of the cityscapes, the music had a strong presence, and certainly didn’t go amiss.

On the whole, I can only recommend Drive, and I also have to ask myself why it took me this long to see such a wonderful film. It was exactly my sort of thing and was one of two hugely enjoyable films that made for a great afternoon during the bank holiday just passed.

Catch Me If You Can is a film I shall be catching up with again in future

The true story of Frank Abagnale Jr., who had managed to conned his way to being a millionaire as a Pan Am pilot, a doctor and a legal prosecutor, all before his nineteenth birthday.

Growing up, Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) had always looked up to his father (Christopher Walken), who had constantly blagged his way through whatever situation he had found himself in until he got into too much trouble with the IRS. When financial strains got too much for the Abagnale family however, Frank’s parents split up, and when faced with the tough decision of choosing who he would live with, he ran. On his own in the world with not much of a life to go back to, Frank thought on his feet and dealt with the situation the only way he knew how. He did what his father had taught him, only he turned it up a notch and before long he is flying planes for Pan American Airlines, taking charge of junior doctors and nurses on hospital graveyard shifts, and putting away small time criminals in court – all the while making hundreds upon thousands of dollars. One man, Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks) is hot on his tail, and what unfolds is one of the greatest cat and mouse chases that ever took place. And yep, this actually happened!

Catch Me If You Can is a film I started watching a couple of months ago, but never managed to finish it due to a fault the copy that I had. I was gutted because I was really enjoying it as well. However, as luck would have it, I managed to find it on the TV a couple of weeks ago, so I was able to finish watching it. At least I can say it was a film worth waiting for – this turned out to be a really fun watch, made even better by the fact that it was a true story.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance was one of the highlights of this film. In Catch Me If You Can, he is an actor playing another great pretender, and he made Abagnale really captivating to watch. Not to do DiCaprio any discredit though, but I do think he would have been an interesting character regardless of who played him. I do think DiCaprio elevated the character to even greater heights however, and I would absolutely list this as one of my favourite performances of his.

Tom Hanks is always wonderful regardless of what he’s in, but he was every part DiCaprio’s equal here as Carl Hanratty. There was real grit and determination apparent in Hanks’ performance, and you could also sense an element of desperation as he fought to convince his co-workers that fraud was a real crime. He needed the Abagnale case to prove this to people, and so you felt quite invested in his character’s story.

What I loved so much about this film was it’s story, and particularly the way it was told. The story itself was one you couldn’t make up, nor would you try to for fear of the slating it would receive for it’s implausibility. It is so amazing to think that this case actually happened all those years ago! This is exactly the kind of history I love as well, because it tells us about people you wouldn’t necessarily read about in a school textbook, yet the world wouldn’t be the way it is today without them having been. As for the way the narrative is delivered to us in this film, I found it to be quite effective how with each year that passed in the film, we were brought back to base with the Christmas phone calls. It meant that you never worried about losing your place with the plot, so you could sit back and enjoy it all the more.

All in all, this is definitely a film for you to see if you haven’t yet. Catch Me If You Can is just such a fun watch that also carries with it a little bit of history that actually really aids the film with it’s credibility. Both lead performances work to complement each other and a story that is truly riveting to watch, and also never shows any sign of where it might go with each scene that takes place. This is a film that I will be watching again in future.

A Most Violent Year gave me serious Godfather vibes


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!