My take on mother! (there may be spoilers, although I have tried to avoid them)


A couple’s blissful existence is disrupted when two strangers come to stay at their home.
I think that’s as far as I’m going to go with my synopsis of mother!. I feel as though if I go on to describe what happened in any more depth than that I may spoil it for people, and that is the last thing want to do, believe me. It’s a funny old film this – I left the cinema not having much idea of what I had just been subjected to for the past two hours, but after thinking long and hard about the film for the rest of the afternoon, I think I finally got it.

Neither of the two main performances here were what I’d expected. I watched the film because Javier Bardem was in it, and I’m a huge fan of his work. For some reason, I had thought he was going to be bit of a villain, but he wasn’t. Saying that, however, I wouldn’t have said he was exactly a good guy either. When you begin to understand the symbolism in the film, I think that this kind of portrayal of Bardem’s character was the best way to play it, because we do question whether or not the figure who he is possibly playing in the film is actually good. I’ve now just realised that a lot of what I say in this review is probably not actually going to make sense (if anything I say in any of my reviews ever does). Jennifer Lawrence also played a character that we generally wouldn’t have her down for. Lawrence has become known for playing strong female leads. In this, she was very meek for the most part, but gradually she got back to her usual self until in the end, she decided she’d had enough and destroyed everything. Both were good performances, but I’m not convinced they were my favourites from either actor.

On the surface, this entire film looks like a complete mess, I’m not going to deny that. As I said, I didn’t know what to think for a good while after the film. However, once you accept that everything in the film is symbolic (I think, anyway), you can hopefully start to make sense of it. I’m not going to go into every little detail, but if I say that Bardem’s character is supposed to be a metaphor for God you’ll hopefully begin to see what the whole thing is getting at, or at least what I thought it was getting at. The film is swimming in religious connotations, and maybe because of this it comes across as pretentious. But when you think about it, religion itself also tends to be that way inclined, so I think it is one of those rare occasions where a film’s own pretentiousness has worked for it.

In all fairness, I think mother! was sold short by the trailers – it’s not the film trailers make it out to be. It also was not as horrific as I had expected, although, granted, something does get eaten in the film that will mean you’ll never view baby back ribs in the same way again. There were definitely horror elements, but I think to pin this one down solely as a horror film doesn’t work.

Overall, mother! is a very strange film that will most likely mean nothing to anyone who takes what they watch at face value. As a result, this probably isn’t one for everybody, especially casual cinema goers. However, if you have patience and are willing to think about what everything actually means and represents after watching the film, you might find that you like it quite a lot. I for one was certainly not sure how to feel about spending £11 on seeing this film for the first couple or three hours after seeing it, but after a while, things clicked into place and I’ve now come to the conclusion that it was actually very impressive. Of course, that’s not to say that if you do get it, you’ll love it, but it definitely helped me to appreciate it on a whole other level.
If you’ve seen mother!, let me know what you thought – I think it’s a film that’s going to start some interesting conversations, and I really would love to hear what your impression was.

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Dunkirk is a victory in every sense


Allied soldiers are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during World War II.
Between May 26th and June 4th in 1940, 400,000 British soldiers found themselves surrounded on the beach of Dunkirk with no ships to take them home. Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill put the call out to the public that their boys needed help, and so help came. They aimed for 30,000 boats, but got 300,000 in a feat that remains just as astonishing today is it did back then.

Straight away I’ll come out and say that Dunkirk is probably the best war film I’ve ever seen. Christopher Nolan has done a fantastic job with this film. I absolutely loved it! I think we have a serious contender for Oscars here with this one, although I am unsure whether any will be for the acting because of the ensemble line-up.

There were so many great performances in this film, and what was so good about it was those making their acting debuts got as much screen time as the more experienced cast members. Fionn Whitehead was excellent. You really got the impression of a young boy way out of his depth with his performance. Harry Styles is actually capable of some decent acting – who’d have thought it? And then you have the people who we could refer to as the veterans in this particular film. Cillian Murphy gave a very good performance as one of the soldiers who were rescued out at sea. The shock and pain that he was experiencing was something that you felt as well. Mark Rylance played Mr Dawson, one of the civilians closely followed in the film. I think if any of the cast are to be nominated for any awards and are likely to win, it will be him. I think his was the most complex character of the lot because I think he helped to show the impact the war had back home, yet how much the public were willing to do. Finally, I would just like to kindly point out that Tom Hardy was in this film and I can conclude that he has done more acting with just his eyes during his career than anyone else has done with their whole body. 

While performances were a key part of the film, what set it apart from so many other war films were all the other elements that contribute to the film-making process. The cinema screening I went to was truly immersive, and I didn’t even see it in IMAX, so you can imagine how much more mind-blowing it would’ve been if I had. The sound was awesome, making you feel as though the bombs were being dropped metres from you. The camera work for all of the scenes with the fighter jets was on another level entirely. When the planes moved, the camera moved with it (maybe not recommended for those with motion sickness, but hey, sometimes you just have to toughen up a little), and as I was watching these scenes unfold, I found myself moving with the picture. It was honestly like being in a flight simulator at times – phenomenal cinematography.

Of course, with this being a Christopher Nolan film, which means it was never going to be a simple, run-of-the-mill beginning, middle and end narrative. This was one thing I had been slightly concerned about because my little head has been unable to wrap itself around some of the plots in his previous films. However, ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to inform you that even I managed to figure the timeline out here, and also believe it to have greatly enhanced the film as it gave it a real-time, play by play vibe, which added to the feeling that you were right there in the middle of the action.

Overall, Dunkirk is a knock-out. It’s a grown-up film that can be enjoyed by the younger generations, and works to give a three-dimensional view of how events played out during this amazing operation that took place in WWII. It combines terrific performances with a score that ratchets tension perfectly, and visuals that place you right at the heart of the action. Has Nolan excelled himself here? Hell yeah!

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.