Deliverance is a good film, but not my thing


Four adventurous businessmen intent on seeing the Cahulawassee River before it is turned into a huge lake take a canoe trip into the American backcountry, only for their excursion to take a deadly turn.
Four urban businessmen bound for wilderness take a trip into the country for a weekend canoe trip on the Cahulawassee River. It turns out to be everything they had hoped for – a terrific adventure – but soon enough they run into a couple of rednecks, and the trip takes a turn for the worst. Over the course of a few hours, the men are exposed to the true extent of what man and nature are capable of, putting their lives at risk, and making their little vacation one that none of them shall ever forget, no matter how hard they try.

A film that my dad has been on at me to watch for a while is Deliverance, so this weekend I finally got round to doing that. There were some good performances, and some great cinematography during the rapids sequences, but the film, while being a classic and held in very esteem by many people, isn’t my favourite of all the films that my dad has recommended to me.

As I’ve just mentioned, there were a couple of good performances in this film, and my favourite came from Jon Voight who played Ed. We got to see his character make a real transition from the start of the film right up to the end, and the change that Voight’s performances underwent in accordance with this was brilliant. I always enjoy watching Voight after becoming a fan of his work as Mickey in the series Ray Donovan, so I had no qualms about watching him here, in fact, he was one of the big plus points for me. 

I did like the story, and I think what worked best for it was the fact that it was so simple. It was not guilty of trying too hard, and combined with the performances that lay at the helm of this film, plus the wonderful shots of the more wild landscapes, it was pulled together nicely and made for a good watch. I have also read that Deliverance is considered to be one of the most disturbing films of all time, and I can see where the people who have said that are coming from. What makes this film so impactful is the heightened possibility that something along the lines of what took place here could happen in real life. There was just a very strong sense of realism surrounding the storyline and the events that took place that I think have a tendency to hit audiences hard.

Of course, I did state that this is not my favourite of the films that my dad has recommended to me. However, it’s not for what was wrong with it, I simply think that is was not my thing. I thought it was a good film, and some aspects of it were done very well indeed, but it just wasn’t the type film that was my cup of tea.

All in all, Deliverance was a film that, despite being as unsettling as it was, was also an enjoyable watch. It may not completely float my boat for some reason, but I can still say that this is a film you should consider watching if you haven’t yet seen it. There are some cracking performances and a very believable story that make for more than decent viewing, even if like me, you may not be in a hurry to experience again. 

Primal Fear wasn’t mind-blowing, but it wasn’t frighteningly bad either


When a priest is murdered, one of his altar boys is accused of doing the deed, however the truth of what really happened is quite deeply buried.Hot-shot defence attorney Martin Vail (Richard Gere) takes on the case of poor altar boy Aaron (Edward Norton) who stands accused of murdering a well-respected priest. He offers to fight Aaron’s corner pro bono, convinced that the boy is not guilty of killing the man of the cloth. As he spends time with him, Martin finds more and more material that could help Aaron’s case in court, the most important being that he appears to suffer from some kind of multiple personality disorder, as agreed by psychologist Dr. Molly Arrington (Frances McDormand). This could prove significant in court, where Martin and his client are up against ambitious young prosecutor Janet Venable (Laura Linney), whose history with the defence means she is determined to win the fight. However, one thing remains uncertain right throughout the trial, and that is, what exactly happened in the priest’s apartment, and who did it?

Another film that I have been waiting a while to see is Primal Fear. I had heard mainly good things about it, and after watching it this weekend I can confirm that it is a solid watch, however I had half-suspected the ending. Oh well, at least I can finally cross it off my list now!

I really liked Richard Gere as Martin Vail. What made him such a good character was the fact that, despite being a big time defence lawyer, he wasn’t a really self-conceited, egotistic type of person, which is often what happens with these types of characters. It is later explained to you in the film why he isn’t a complete idiot as well, and he just feels human when you watch him. I can’t help but feel that Gere is slightly type-cast as a rich man with a successful career however, because he played someone of a similar status in Pretty Woman, which happens to be one of the few other films I have seen him in. Nonetheless, I enjoyed watching him, and will happily sit and watch his work in other films in future.

This is the film that made Edward Norton, and it’s not difficult to see why. Much like James McAvoy in Split – another film involving a multiple personality type disorder – Norton owned the role by making the transitions between his two personalities so clear. There was a look in his eye that defined each persona before he spoke, and the vocal characterisations were very strong, really completing the characters. I can safely say that Norton’s early career, to the best of my knowledge, was dominated by some excellent performances.

Many of the performances in the film are very good, however it still remains only a solid watch in my opinion, not an unforgettable one. This is mainly because I had kind of seen the ending coming, so I really wasn’t that surprised when it happened, and for that reason I doubt the film is going to have much of a lasting impact on me.

Overall, while I would recommend Primal Fear, I would warn people to bare in mind that it doesn’t really break any new ground. Perhaps when it was released 21 years ago, things were different, but the film currently doesn’t have the punch I would have liked it to. That being said, it is still a good watch, and I am happy to say that I have finally seen it after waiting for such a long time.

Just Charlie review for Midlands Movies

This review first appeared on Midlands Movies

A gifted footballer struggles with her identity as she becomes more and more aware that they are a girl trapped inside a boy’s body, while her family and friends also try their best to come to terms with these changes.
When young footballing talent Charlie (Harry Gilby) receives an offer for a trial at his county’s football team it would appear that he quite literally has the world at his feet. If he plays his cards right, his future could be sorted. However, a life of luxury doing what he loves is more daunting to Charlie than one would initially think it would be. Trapped in the body of a boy, Charlie is painfully torn between living up to his father’s expectations and following the life he never could, and shedding his ill-fitting skin. When he unintentionally fronts up to his family, Charlie’s action threatens to tear his family apart forever.

Just Charlie is a Midlands-based project that takes a look at the story of a young boy who is a young girl at heart. It is a wonderfully made film that sensitively deals with an issue that has recently started to have more and more light shed on it.

I really enjoyed a number of the performances here, although I absolutely must start off by saying hat’s off to young Harry Gilby for his portrayal of Charlie here. For a first appearance in a feature length film he did a terrific job. It was a truly brilliant performance that I think showed real maturity on Gilby’s behalf. I think a lot of very experienced actors would have to seriously consider taking on a role such as this because it is a very sensitive issue that has only really become something that has started to be discussed publicly very recently. There is potentially a lot that could go wrong when someone plays a transgender person as there is such a huge number of ways the role could be unknowingly mishandled. For me though, Gilby did a very good job of portraying Charlie, so kudos to him.

Scot Williams played Charlie’s dad, and again, this was another blinding performance. Some of his scenes with Gilby were horrible to watch, but this had such an impact on me as a viewer. I cannot begin to imagine the toll that a situation such as the one presented here in the film must take on a family, but if I were to try to, the results would come pretty close to so many of the scenes that the two actors shared here. As difficult and upsetting as they were to watch at times, they really did the job very well. Williams managed to play Paul in a way that meant you didn’t view him as a heartless idiot, but as a man who was grieving in some way, meaning you were able to empathise with him somewhat.

I have to praise writer Peter Machen on the story he created for the film. He managed to write something that covered just a bout all bases of Charlie’s life – home, school, football, and everything in between. He also managed to do all this without making the film feel as thought it was trying to be much bigger than it actually was. While it may have branched out and touched upon the issue in a variety of settings, the story still felt personal and intimate enough for you to really be drawn into it.

All in all, Just Charlie is a beautiful film that pulls no punches in delivering it’s message, yet still brings everything back round for a happy ending (or should I really say beginning in this case?). The top notch writing covers so many things while the truthful performances do a great job in tying everything together very nicely indeed. This is a touching journey of a film that is definitely worth every moment spent watching it.

There’s a reason Moonlight (eventually) won Best Picture

*Please bare in mind I wrote this review before last night’s Oscars


A film chronicling the minefield of adolescence for a young boy struggling to find who he is.
A young man with a difficult home life comes of age in Miami during America’s ‘War On Drugs’ era. The tale of his adolescence is told through three chapters which detail every element of teenage years and young adulthood, and highlight his struggle in trying to discover who he really is.

Maybe I’ve left things very understated with that short synopsis of Moonlight, but then, maybe I haven’t. The film has a very basic concept, but, much like Fences, does the simple things very well. Perhaps the reason it has been so well received is that it is a film that resonates with everyone on some level. Whatever it is, it has ensured that the film has taken the world by storm.

Every single performance in this film is wonderful, but there are a couple of stand outs for me. Naomie Harris was very, very good as Paula, Chiron’s addict mother. She was a far cry from her previous performances as Eve Moneypenny in the James Bond films, and I think showed her capabilities as an actress as she has had no previous experience with addiction herself. She gave a convincing performance, and the progression, or should I say downward spiral, that we see with her character is crystal clear throughout the film.

Mahershala Ali was also terrific, although I have to be honest I had expected to see more of him, especially given the fact that he received an Oscar nomination for his work. One scene in particular was what sold his whole performance to me. If one thing is for certain, regardless of how long he was on-screen for, he made a lasting impact, which is what you want with every character you see in every film, otherwise what was the point of them being there in the first place?

As I’ve already said, the entire premise of this film is so simple, but that is where it’s genius lies. For me, it shares similarities with Boyhood with its tale of adolescence, but perhaps works out slightly better than the other film as it has a runtime that comes in at about an hour less. The struggles depicted throughout the film are along the lines of what we all have to deal with during this period of our lives and is why it works so well. 

Director Barry Jenkins really has accomplished something of greatness with Moonlight. One of the film’s greatest strengths was it’s use of silence. When you sit and think about it, there is a relatively low number of conversations that take place throughout the film – the spaces where nothing is spoken verbally screams way more than what the characters actually say, especially when it comes to Chiron. I can only assume that it was Jenkins’s awareness of the effectiveness of the sound of silence that made it almost like another character throughout the film.

On the whole, I’d say Moonlight is a very good film, but I have a feeling it may not clean up at the Oscars. That is no reflection on the film, but I just think it may be up against some stiff competition and there is one film that will definitely win a few awards. As good as it is, I also cannot quite say that it is my absolute favourite of all of this year’s nominees I have seen, but that does not mean it is not worth the time spent watching it.

I’m not sitting on any Fences with this film

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll lose no sleep after watching Nocturnal Animals


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manchester By The Sea went swimmingly for me


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

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

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

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

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

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