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.

The Accountant was a good addition to my Saturday afternoon

A gifted mathematician starts uncool into the books for a new client as the Treasury Department closes in on him.Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is a man with a better affinity for numbers than people. On the surface, it would seem that he is your standard run-of-the-mill accountant, but dig a little deeper an you’ll find that he does some freelance work fixing the finances of some of the world’s biggest organised crime rings. He takes on a legitimate client in the shape of Living Robotics just as the Treasury Department’s Crime Enforcement Division headed up by Ray King (JK Simmons) begins to investigate his actions. However, as Christian sheds some light on the missing finances of his latest customer, he finds that not everything is quite what it first appeared to be.

So I finally got round to watching The Accountant this afternoon, and I have to say I enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s one of those proper action films that we have struggled to come across of late, but has bit of a twist as it’s main protagonist is somewhere on the autistic spectrum. This was something that provided a fresher take on a genre that you could say has been worn fairly thin with some diabolical releases in recent years.

I had been looking forward to seeing Ben Affleck take on the role of Christian Wolff since I saw the trailer for this film months ago. I had faith that he could get it right and finally redeem himself after fans all over the world lost their confidence in him after watching a film that came out earlier on in 2016. Admittedly, he didn’t provide the performance that I thought he would – I had expected something a couple of rungs down from Rain Man, but instead I was presented with someone who appeared to only suffer from occasional lapses in private. After thinking about it a bit, however, I think this worked far better than what I was expecting would have done, and so hats off to Affleck for what was a great performance.

The Accountant had a solid storyline with a couple of little treats right towards the end that kept me interested right until the credits started rolling. It was nice that the film didn’t get lost in a convoluted plot that was way too ambitious for it, something that I think some action thrillers have fallen foul of in the past, especially during the last few years. The fact that this story was relatively easy to keep pace with made the film all the more enjoyable, which I think some filmmakers would do well to bear in mind at times.

That being said, there were a couple of characters that I must say didn’t feel totally necessary. Anna Kendrick as Dana Cummings was good, don’t get me wrong, but the film could have survived without her. It just felt as though the writers had tried to force something into the story that wasn’t needed. I think I would have much preferred it if they had come up with some other reason for why Christian was intent on pursuing this case to the bitter end. Alas, for all it’s other saving graces, I can’t complain too much.

Overall, The Accountant is a good action film that would be ideal for a night in on the sofa after a hard week at work. It didn’t require too much thinking, was terrifically entertaining, and had some decent performances to boot. I’d say order a takeaway and turn in for the night – it would be time well spent. 

I’m already betting Split will be one of my top films of 2017

A man with 23 distinct personalities kidnaps three girls in the hope that they will enable him to unlock his true potential and access an altogether more powerful 24th identity.For her birthday, Claire Benoit (Haley Lu Richardson) has a party that she invites all of her classmates to. This group includes class outsider Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy), who ends up needing a ride home with Claire and her friend, Marcia (Jessica Sula). The three girls encounter trouble before they’ve even left the car park – a strange man (James McAvoy) climbs in their car and the next thing they know is they are waking up in a basement somewhere unknown to them. It later becomes clear that this man has a number of different personalities, and all the ones that they are exposed to hint that there is some sort of agenda that they are needed for. The girls frantically try to figure a way out of the situation they have found themselves in, but get separated when they offend their host(s). Before long, it is up to Casey to try to get all three girls out alive as she is the only one who can seem to get through to the man through one of his alter egos. Meanwhile, the man makes frequent visits to his psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley) as Barry, another, more level-headed personality than those seen by the girls. She knows something is up, but by the time she learns enough about the 24th personality known as The Beast, it is too little too late. 

Ah, where to begin? Split. The return of M. Night Shyamalan. It’s all such a blur to me after seeing the film a couple of hours ago. I had been so excited for this one. My friend sent me a link to the teaser trailer months ago, and we decided there and then that we would make it our first mission in 2017 to see this film. Well… now the mission is complete, and I am lost for words – a slight problem considering I now have to review the film. I guess you could say I was absolutely blown away by it. I had had high expectations going into the film, and was seriously worried that it could be one of the biggest flops of the year. As it turns out, it topped my expectations quite magnificently – I am so glad it didn’t turn out to be a waste of time!

You know the drill by now, I always start with performances, so let’s talk a little bit about a certain James McAvoy who reached new acting heights here. In the film, we see him as mainly five different characters. You’d think this would become confusing, am I right? Nope. Not in the slightest. The transitions between characters were so clear and so fluid, often taking place on a line by line basis. McAvoy didn’t even have to speak for you to be able to distinguish between any two personalities. He embodied each one completely and was so mesmerising to see in every minute of the film. My favourite of the personalities he portrayed was nine-year-old Hedwig. He was just so funny, and had the ability to flip the tone of the film on it’s head for a minute with some of the things he said. This was something that provided a nice little aside during the course of things, but also emphasised the darkness of the other alter egos that McAvoy showed us.

Newcomer Anya Taylor-Joy was equally as wonderful to watch, even if she didn’t quite take on the same challenging workload that McAvoy might have done. She gave Casey such a great amount of authenticity I thought, plus showed that while a young woman might be scared, not every single one of her brain cells has to completely evaporate. I really liked her character and her performance, and genuinely look forward to seeing more of her in the near future.

I think that’s the easiest part out of the way. Now what? There are so many things about this film that I loved that I don’t think I could cover them all and not have you age a few years before you’ve finished reading. Split is 100% not the film the trailers make it out to be. It is a dark, brooding thriller that builds up to an absolutely stonking finale with a twist that, even with a telescope, I wouldn’t have seen coming. The ending is definitely what elevated the film to greatness for me – I just didn’t see it coming, but fully understood what had happened after it had been and gone. It didn’t feel pretentious at all, and I think that’s what swayed it for me.

So, that should do it I’d say. Split is a film that I would recommend more than most, especially if you are someone who has seen a number of Shyamalan’s films as this will be something that makes this one so great for you. I don’t feel like there’s much more I can say without A) taking up anymore of your time than I already have, or B) ruin the film for you, as it is one of those that I can now safely say the less you know, the better it will be for you.

The closer you look at Nightcrawler, the better it gets

A man desperate for work muscles his way into the world of L.A. crime journalism but the lines between bystander and participant when he delves deeper into the possibilities of his new career.Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a small time their and big time hustler. He lives a relatively low profile existence and desperately needs work. After a night of unsuccessful job hunting, Lou makes his way home but comes across a road accident on the way. He notices a camera crew filming and makes an instant, perhaps slightly subconscious decision that that is the job for him. He kits himself out with a camera and police transponder, hires an intern, then starts filming the latest and greatest crime stories taking place in L.A. and sells them to a news station. Before long, however, Lou’s morals become more questionable than they were before, and he very quickly starts to get way too involved in the stories he is filming.

For a very long time now I have been threatening to review Nightcrawler, but in all the time I’ve had the DVD, I just never got round to writing up about it. Well, me and my best friend watched it the other day and so I’ve finally decided that now is the time to review this very interesting film.

The main attraction here is the lead performance. Jake Gyllenhaal is absolutely tremendous as Lou Bloom, providing what is definitely one of the best performances of his career. He put so much effort into developing his character and all his work certainly paid off if you ask me. He made Lou a real oddball to the extent that at some points during the film, he was somewhat uncomfortable to watch. Despite this, he is a Gyllenhaal character that I love, and one that has made me worry slightly about myself. We all know that I have a fondness of Gyllenhaal, and it was after seeing him here that hat fondness developed. He is a magnificent actor, and one who is not too hard to look at either.

Nightcrawler introduced us to Riz Ahmed whom we all perhaps now know best as Naz Khan in The Night Of. His character, Rick, was something like the complete opposite of Lou – very unsure of himself, not at all impulsive, basically everything Lou wasn’t. He was a good balancer in the film, and he emphasised Lou’s eccentricities well.

The film doesn’t follow a storyline as such, but follows the main character on his descent into what is essentially madness instead. It also explores an idea that I for one haven’t seen before. The stories of these so-called ‘nightcrawlers’ is not something that I have ever really given much thought to, but I am so glad writer and director Dan Gilroy did. Sadly though, it would appear that some organisations didn’t pay this film the same attention as I, along with many others, did, as it missed out on an awful lot during that year’s awards season.

On the whole, I 100% recommend that you see Nightcrawler. It takes a look at life through the eyes of someone who is a product of the time he was raised within. I suppose in a way you could look upon this film as a modern day version of Taxi Driver – it has the same fantastically unnerving lead performance and great writing, but applies elements of what is slightly more in line with what is going on today.

Con Air is a real thrill-ride from start to finish

A freshly paroled former US Ranger finds himself trapped on-board a prison airplane that gets hijacked by the criminals it is carrying.

After a drunken brawl leaves a man dead, ex-US Ranger Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) is charged with manslaughter and is sent to jail three months before his daughter is born. Years later, he is eligible for parole and it finally looks like he’ll get to meet his little girl in person. His ride home is a prison plane that transfers convicts between prisons in different states, and unfortunately for Cameron, he boards the plane that happens to get hijacked by the criminally insane but highly intelligent Cyrus ‘The Virus’ Grissom (John Malkovich) and a few other cons who contributed to the plan. With the authorities remaining one step behind the convicts for quite some time, it is up to Cameron to make sure that his reunion with his family doesn’t have to wait any longer than it already has, while doing everything he can to help those who also hadn’t planned on their trip panning out this way either.

I first watched Con Air a couple of years ago, and I have to say I enjoyed it just as much now as I did then, although it has to be said that it is little more than Die Hard on a plane – Nicolas Cage even has the matching vest! While it may not be the most earth-shattering film ever to be made, nor the best film of either of the three main actor’s careers, it certainly has it’s plus points that make it a fun watch.

This film contains perhaps one of the best, and definitely the most quoted Nicolas Cage line of all time. I can’t imagine anyone else saying ‘Put the bunny back in the box,’ quite like he did. This is one of my favourite roles of his and I think quite a few people feel the same way. Cage channelled his inner John McClane as Cameron, and no matter how many times I found his dialect borderline ridiculous, I couldn’t help but find myself rooting for him to ground that plane and get himself home.

John Malkovich is the main reason I rewatched this film recently. He certainly is an actor who has shown us how wide his range of abilities truly is. As Cyrus ‘The Virus’, he took on the role of the ultimate menace to society, and I have to say that he was a very good villain. If you don’t know by now, I am someone who really enjoys seeing an intelligent person doing bad things on-screen (and I don’t mean good actors starring in bad films when I say that). Criminal masterminds are up there with some of my favourite movie villains, and I thought Malkovich and Cage both complimented each other quite well with their approaches to their characters, which is maybe why Con Air works as well as it should for me.

As I’ve said, the plot for this film could be mistaken for being the instalment of the Die Hard franchise that took place on a plane that they couldn’t get Bruce Willis to sign on for. However, I wouldn’t say I’m a film snob and so I love a run-of-the-mill action flick as much as anyone else. It’s quite easy-going and doesn’t require too much brainpower, so while it may be quite conventional as far as action thrillers go, it provides a couple of hours’ worth of fun explosions and decent characters that make it worth your time.

On the whole, I would say that Con Air certainly isn’t ground-breaking, but is worth seeing if you’re a fan of anyone in it, or if you just have nothing else to do. There’s plenty of action, some big explosions, a few laughs (not entirely sure if all are intentional) and a little bit of the lovey-dovey stuff for the hopeless romantic in all of us. It’s a solid film that I would say everyone should check out at some point.

Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead is one I’d maybe recommend

After quite severely bitching a job, five criminals face imminent death.

Reformed gangster Jimmy The Saint (Andy Garcia) has gone straight by recording messages of the terminally-ill so they can give ‘Afterlife Advice’ to their loved ones. Business for his company begins to slow and he is forced to turn to a loan shark to keep the whole thing afloat and to accommodate his own expensive personal taste. The proposition from an underworld overlord who is an old acquaintance of Jimmy’s comes at completely the right time with and attractive sum of money attached to it. Jimmy takes up the offer and assembles a team of ex-associates to carry out one last job. but when it all goes wrong, Jimmy and the gang become the ones with the price on their heads, and one by one, they are tracked down and prevented from ruining any future ventures for good.

As a lover of a good gangster film with an all-star cast, its not hard to guess what attracted me to Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead. It is a film that i enjoyed, although I didn’t think it was the finest the genre has to offer. That being said, I would quite happily watch it again.

The cast had some real heavy weights amongst it. Andy Garcia was the loveable rogue, Jimmy The Saint. He gave the character some real charm and gave the impression that Jimmy was one of those old-school gangsters, which was good to see in a lim that isn’t really that old. He brought forward some of the class and subtlety that The Godfather possessed way back in the 70s which i liked a lot.

I was quite surprised to see Fairuza Balk’s name in the opening titles – I hadn’t realised she was in the film. i thought her character was a nice addition to the film as she worked well in showing the softer side of Jimmy and showed us how he earned the nickname of ‘The Saint’. She was also very entertaining to watch at times and managed to lift the film out of some of it’s heavier moments.

The film cam e with a fairly standard storyline, but i felt it was done well enough in order to make it watchable for most. There were tinges of comedy flecked throughout and pretty good characters to keep the masses entertained. I had personally expected a bit more action, and cant help but feel slightly disappointed by what was actually on offer, but I can’t complain as the final result was a solid film.

Overall, it might not be earth shattering, but Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead is an entertaining way to pass a few hours of your time. I found it to be quite an enjoyable flick with nothing that required too much brainpower or hard work to figure out. It might not be for everyone, but it is certainly worth checking out.

Twelve Monkeys was bit of an ape of a film

When the future of the planet is in jeopardy following the outbreak if a deadly disease, a convict travels back in time to gather information on the source of the outbreak.In 1997, a deadly virus kills 99% of the human population, forcing the survivors to flee underground and allowing the animals to rule the world once more. One of the survivors, imprisoned sociopath James Cole (Bruce Willis) is chosen to return to the past and find the source of the outbreak and gather information that could prove useful in defending the human race against the disease. Once he is back in the past, James investigates the Army Of The Twelve Monkeys and is to report his findings, but a man claiming to be fighting human extinction is not what the rest of the world is willing to accept as part of its view on sanity.

In preparation for my appearance on Talking Stars, an emergency viewing of Twelve Monkeys had to take place as it was probably the one big Bruce Willis film that I had not seen. It was after watching it that I was reminded of the reasons why I hadn’t rushed to see it before – I’m really not the greatest science-fiction fan, no matter who might be the star of the show.

Willis was kind of his usual self here. James was one of those reluctant hero types, and was a character who certainly wasn’t out of place played by Willis. However, it did feel as though rather too much emphasis was being put on the fact that his character was mentally insecure, or was at least viewed by everyone else to be. I don’t know, it just wasn’t my favourite role of Willis’ for the reason that while it tried to stay in fairly familiar territory, it also attempted to change things up too much.

That’s not the story for all of the performances though, Brad Pitt played Jeffrey Goines – someone James meets during his time at the institution and who later becomes a leading figure in the Army Of The Twelve Monkeys. Pitt provides a stunning performance as the lightly clinically insane Jeffrey and was absolutely mesmerising to watch. It’s not hard to see why this was a big breakout role for Pitt, who was rewarded for his efforts with an Oscar nomination for his performance. If anything, it was worth watching Twelve Monkeys just for him.

For me, the film’s major downfall came with the plot and the genre it all fell into. As I’ve said, I’m not the biggest lover of sci-fi films, and so the second a film crosses over into that genre I immediately get sceptical. It was fine until I got past the halfway mark and then the storyline lost me, or rather I lost it.

All in all, Twelve Monkeys probably isn’t a film that I’ll be rushing to see again, although I probably should in order to understand it slightly better. Acting overall was pretty average with glimpses or brilliance, and you know how I felt about the plot. It just wasn’t my cup of tea, and will therefore be joining all of the other sci-fi films I just couldn’t hack.