The Gift fully delivered


A young married couple have their live’s thrown into disarray when an acquaintance from the husband’s past turns up and reveals a horrific secret about him.
When husband and wife Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) move from Chicago to California, one of the first things they do is head to a home furnishings store. There, they bump into Gordo (Joel Edgerton), a man who seems to Simon, despite Simon not being sure that he’s ever met him before in his life. Through a series of unplanned meetings at their new home, Simon realises that he went to school with Gordo, and that events from their childhood may have had an adverse effect on him. Simon tries to convince Robyn not to worry, however still unnerved, she decides to do some digging of her own. When she finds out what exactly unfolded between the two men years ago, she’s not entirely sure who the bad guy is anymore.

The Gift is one of those films that I had heard a lot of good things about, so was eager to watch it in order to see what all the fuss was about. I have to say, for a film that was shown in trailers to be a bit jumpy, I had half expected it to fall flat, despite the rave reviews. I can happily inform you, however, that it fully delivered on what was promised, with everything culminating in a horrifically twisted ending that will leave you questioning who the real villain was yourself.

I quite enjoyed all the performances here. Jason Bateman, or, as someone kindly pointed out to me via Twitter, Jason Great-man, played a good part as Simon, as did Joel Edgerton as Gordo. I mention them both together because in a way, they took on similar roles. I couldn’t really be sure about either of them for the whole film. I think they complemented each other’s characters really well, and a few of the scenes where the pair sized each other up were majorly intense.

Speaking of intense, something this film was very gifted (you’re welcome) at was building tension. You may or may not be aware by now that I am a jumper, and I will have you know that I watched this film late at night – an excellent combination I later discovered! The mix of the dimly lit shots plus the use of only the film score alongside the overall tone of the film made for a very eerie atmosphere, and just like lighting follows a clap of thunder, this eventually culminated in a jump scare that got me every single time. 

I have to give full credit to Edgerton. Not only did he star in the film as a terrific character, but he also wrote AND directed the whole thing as well. I’ve seen people give themselves this workload before, but usually one part of it is at least slightly below the standard the other two meet. Edgerton, however, handled all three components masterfully here, proving that what I’ve heard from fellow bloggers and human beings is true – he is a very talented man, and one that I shall be keeping an eye on for the foreseeable future.

Overall, I have to say I’d recommend The Gift to people, in fact, I already had before writing this post. For a film that just seemed to pop up out of nowhere, it does alright. One thing it knows how to do is build an atmosphere, whether that be through pitting characters against each other or the use of all resources involved in making the film. It’s a good watch, and one that proved to me that once a jumper, always a jumper.

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.

Green Room gets the green light


After witnessing a murder at a new-nazi skinhead bar, a punk rock band has to fight for survival.

Pat (Anton Yelchin) takes his punk rock band, The Ain’t Rights, to a night club in a bid to take them one step closer to their big break. They aren’t quite as well received as they had hoped, but their little tour takes a much more grisly turn when they walk back into their dressing room to discover a body with a knife sticking out of it’s head. What follows is a major struggle to escape the clutches of the bar’s owner, Darcy Banker (Patrick Stewart) as he seeks to take out the only witnesses to the brutal murder and eliminate all traces of what happened in the club that night.

Last year, Green Room hit cinemas and was greeted by a lot of very good reviews, so when I got the DVD after Christmas I was very eager to see the film. However, it is only now that I have been able to finally watch it. Was it worth the wait? Yes, but that’s not it say that it didn’t have it’s faults.

As one of those survival-type films, there is of course a real opportunity for some great performances to emerge, but also for some very, very bad ones to rear their heads as well. Thankfully, I did enjoy the key performances here, which makes a change for a film with elements of horror. Anton Yelchin was brilliant to watch, and reminded us of a talent that was lost way too soon, however I think my favourite person in this film has to be Imogen Poots as Amber. She and Yelchin worked really well together, and I thought this showed as their characters came together in order to try and get out alive. What was the best thing about Poots here though was the fact that she was able to play a pretty intelligent character, and this was shown at various points throughout the film.

Now, it probably isn’t worth much coming from me as I am notorious for jumping at everything, but there moments dotted throughout Green Room that made me twitch a bit when they happened. It certainly had a few good thrills laced throughout it’s run, although it took a little longer than I’d have liked for these to start happening.

My biggest gripes about the film focus on things that I felt should have been done, but for some reason were not. One of these things was the use of Patrick Stewart, or lack it, shall we say. I just think he should have been on-screen more than he was considering what a wonderful actor he is. My other main issue was the ending. It just happened. Somebody said something, and then the credits started rolling. It just felt a bit sudden, and I thought it let what had been a pretty solid film down quite a bit.

On the whole, Green Room is a film that is well worth watching. More of a thriller than a horror, it had plenty of moments that certainly made my heart beat a bit faster. It has a few issues, but nothing too major, and a couple of great lead performances make this a good watch, and one that I’m very happy to say I’ve seen, even if we have seen films of a similar nature in the past. 

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.

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.