Seven Psychopaths was a bit shih tzu

An L.A. screenwriter finds himself caught up in some dodgy dealings when a mob boss’s dog goes missing, however the events that take place may just help to cure his writer’s block.Marty (Colin Farrell) is a struggling screenwriter who may or may not have a mild drinking problem. He is inadvertently dragged into an L.A. underworld crime saga when his slightly mad friends kidnap the beloved shih tzu of mob boss Charlie (Woody Harrelson). What follows is a series of events that provide Marty with plenty of inspiration for a story for the big screen, if he manages to get out alive, that is.

Seven Psychopaths is a film from director Martin MacDonagh, a man whose work I am quite familiar with after seeing films such as The Guard and In Bruges. I had high hopes for this as I really enjoyed the two aforementioned films, however I was actually quite disappointed by it. Part of me thinks this was due to a certain name being absent from the cast, however I also think another reason was because the story was just a bit too big compared to what I had previously seen from him.

A couple of the performances here were alright though. Sam Rockwell as Billy was fun to watch. He was a total loose cannon, and you never really knew what you were going to get from him. Rockwell made Billy a very unhinged character, and because of this the story moved along a fair bit whenever he was present, which I have to be honest was needed at a few points throughout.

Christopher Walken, no matter what he is in, is always a treat for me to watch. There is something about him that just makes me laugh a lot. I think it’s the deadpan expression he so often has on his face. As Hans, he was easily one of the better characters in this film, largely due to this talent he has. He was probably the reason I watched the film to the end, just so that I could maximise the amount of time I had looking at that face.

The story, besides the lack of comedic moments I found in the film, was the biggest downfall here. It just felt like it tried too hard to be way bigger than it needed to be. I did struggle with following the narrative at times, but really the main issue was I didn’t really care that much to even try and stay focused on it. What was even harder for me to stomach was the fact that I was watching a Martin MacDonagh film without Brendan Gleeson, the usual staple ingredient of films by this director, writer and producer. Perhaps sentimentality got in the way of me completely enjoying it, but this really was something that held much of the film back for me.

All in all, I can’t say I’ll be in a hurry to see Seven Psychopaths again. There’s nothing that particularly sticks in my mind after seeing it, which is not something that happened with either of the two films I had previously seen by this director. Maybe if it wasn’t for the expectations I already had, this wouldn’t have been as bad as I’m making it out to be now, but alas, it had standards to meet, and it failed rather miserably in meeting those.

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.

Cockneys VS Zombies was an absolute riot!

When zombies take over the East End of London, it’s up to a rag-tag bunch of twenty-somethings and a group of pensioners to save the city.
When a group of inept criminals, led by Andy (Harry Treadaway) and Terry (Rasmus Hardiker) decide to rob a bank in order to save their grandfather Ray’s (Alan Ford) retirement home, they don’t count on the dead coming back from the grave to try and stop them. As it turns out, the robbers and their grandfather plus friends may very well be the only hope London has of being saved from an infestation of zombies that takes over in the city in the space of a few hours. The zombies chose the wrong group of cockneys to pick a fight with, however.

You know the phrase, ‘it’s so bad, it’s good’? Well, that perfectly describes this film. The second film I watched as part of the bank holiday afternoon reunion with my best friend was Cockneys VS Zombies, and wasn’t it just wonderful! I’d expected most of the fun to come from the two of us just slagging the film off, but we actually both really enjoyed it. It was a pleasant surprise to say the least.

I can’t say a whole lot about the performances if I’m completely honest. The actors, after all, were all playing characters in a spoof horror. They were all just great fun to watch. Two that stick in my mind are Ashley Thomas as Mental Mickey and Alan Ford (formerly of Snatch and Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels) as Ray. Thomas gifted us with a couple of the moments in the film that had me and my friend absolutely creasing, and I think the purpose of his character was just to push boundaries. He made me laugh a lot, and sometimes that’s all a woman really wants from a man. I suppose I already had a soft spot for Ford before really getting to know his character, but once familiar with Ray I was sure my faith hadn’t been misplaced. He’s just great. His characters never take any messing from anyone, and I think they always show some of the real hard nuts that the East End of London especially is renowned for.

This is a very British film, and while I pride myself on my Irish heritage, there is no getting round the fact that I was born and grew up here, so I’m in touch with the sense of humour displayed here. There is so much in this film that British people will laugh at, mainly because they all know that if a zombie apocalypse was to thrust itself upon the country, this is how it would react. What I also found really cool, and I may have foreshadowed this with my comments on one of the actors, was how it took a few people who had been staples of British TV, particularly in shows that had centred around London’s East End, and then just thrown them into this outlandish situation. It was bloody hilarious!

Now, I can’t believe I’m actually saying this, but if you’re getting a group of friend together for a film night and a few drinks, I can’t recommend strongly enough that Cockneys VS Zombies is one of the films that should be part of it. This is the perfect film for you all to just get together, kick back and chill out with plenty of snacks (chocolate fudge brownie ice cream was our choice) and a few drinks. It requires zero brainpower – in fact, the less you think about it, the better it is- which is the best thing about this film. I’d never have dreamt of watching it before, but now I am so glad that I did.

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.

The Young Offenders made for a grand Saturday evening

Two teenage boys travel 160km on stolen bicycles in the hunt for a €7million bale of cocaine that fell from a ship as part of Ireland’s €440million drug seizure – the biggest in the country’s history.
Best friends Connor (Alex Murphy) and Jock (Chris Walley) are two fifteen year olds from inner city Cork who dress the same and act the same – the pair are inseparable. Jock is a legendary bike thief who enters into a daily game of cat and mouse with the obsessive Garda Sergeant Healy (Dominic MacHale). When a drug trafficking boat capsizes of the west coast of Cork, 61 bales of cocaine, worth €7million each, go missing, but only 60 are recovered. The lads embark on a quest to find the missing bale, which they hope will hold the answers to their troubled home lives, on a couple of stolen bikes. What could go wrong?

By now, you’ll all hopefully be quite familiar with the fact that I’m a sucker for an Irish film. The Young Offenders is a film I set about watching the other night after discovering it on Netflix – what a treat it was to watch. This was a film that was very, very funny in places, but also one that had a good heart at the centre of it all. I wouldn’t imagine it would be quite everyone’s cup of tea, but wasn’t it mine!

I completely enjoyed the two lead performances. Alex Murphy and Chris Walley worked brilliantly together, and really captured what I’d imagine some of my family were like at their age. Some of the dialogue that was exchanged between the two characters was phenomenal. However, the best thing abut both of their characters for me was the gormless look they possessed for probably half the film. Both made me laugh tremendous amounts throughout the course of the film.

Of course, the script was also responsible for a number of the giggles I was guilty of whilst watching this. There were some fine examples of the sorts of soundbites you can expect to hear if you ever take a trip to Ireland. One of my favourites came from a scene in a cafe shared by Walley and Dominic MacHale, and I’m sure everyone else of Irish descent will agree with me that it was a beautiful moment that unfolded between the two character thanks to the dialogue they were gifted with.

I’m eager to find out how much of the film is actually based on real events. Obviously the drug seizure happened, I know that much, but I would love to know whether or not the pilgrimage that would make the Mexican drug cartels envious took place in some form or another. It feels to me very much like the plot of a film I recently reviewed called Catch Me If You Can – I don’t really think you could make this sort of thing up. There are definitely elements of it that have been granted artistic license I would say, but there surely has to be truth in about three-quarters of the film?

Overall, The Young Offenders is a film I completely enjoyed. It’s an easy watch with plenty of wonderfully comedic lines delivered to us by a couple of actors who I personally believe could be ones to watch for the future. I don’t know whether they’ll ever be Oscar winners, but Murphy and Walley absolutely proved they had the chops for comedy here, and I can see them taking roles in a few Brendan Gleeson-style films in years to come. The story is so ridiculous some of it had to be true, and the cherry on top is cinematography that captures plenty of rural Ireland. I won’t say that this will be a film that pleases all, but people like myself with green blood flowing through their veins will be fans, I’m sure.

I’m all for future revivals of Gilmore Girls after seeing A Year In The Life

Set almost a decade after the original series ended, this mini-series follows the Gilmore Girls through four seasons of change.

I’m hoping that you will have read my review of the original Gilmore Girls series so that I don’t have to explain the concept again here. All I really want to do with this is tell you how much enjoyed this revival, and how I felt it measured up compared to the original series.

All of the performances were great once again. It’s amazing how everyone came back into the show after nine years away and managed to channel the characters that they had all worked so hard on for seven years. Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel did of course return as the infamous Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, Kelly Bishop as Emily Gilmore and Scott Patterson as Luke Danes. The revival very much centred around these four characters and how they all interacted with each other now. So much has changed since the show first aired, both in the show and away from it, most notably the passing of Edward Hermann who played Richard Gilmore for the entirety of the original series. I do honestly think that these four especially did a terrific job of not only bringing their roles back to life, but also in paying tribute to those who unfortunately didn’t live to see this reunion happen.

The way the writers incorporated storylines from before into this worked really well. There were a few famous faces from way back in the early 2000s that made short appearances here and again, it was great paying homage to their contributions to the show. What was also really nice about this was the fact that so many people have gone on to big things after starting out here – one name that comes to mind is Jared Padalecki – and that they still found time in their now very busy schedules to come back to film small segments for this. I think that just shows what an impact this show had on everyone who was part of it over the years.

As I was watching the revival, I experienced some really weird feelings. The original series was obviously filmed and aired throughout the very early stages of my life, so everything that happens in those episodes, all the significant events that get mentioned throughout the first seven seasons, I have lived through (granted, quite often this happened without my knowing at the time). Similarly, all the changes that have taken place since then have also been part of my lifetime. Where I’m going with this is it’s strange watching this and looking at everything that has happened in my lifetime, which at only 18 and a half years is a relatively short period of time, and just seeing how much has changed. It was so weird seeing iPads popping up all over the place, and that Luke’s Diner had wifi. However, it was also nice seeing that despite the advancements that had taken place, the people remained largely the same.

I’d also just like to mention how well everyone seems to have aged before I finish this review. Considering I went from an episode that aired in 2007 one night, to something that was filmed last year the next, everyone changed so little! A couple of the cast members have aged particularly well if you ask me, but I won’t go into that too much as I’ve taken enough of your time already.

So, as the Gilmore Girls move into a new chapter of their lives, I have to say that it was really great to see what had gone on since the series finale ten years ago. Finally, Luke and Lorelai are together, and Emily has gotten a bit more bearable. As for Rory, she’s not quite sorted yet, but I’m hoping that future episodes will see her right as well. I know there have been mixed views on Gilmore Girls – A Year In The Life, but I have to admit that I loved it. Everything I enjoyed about the original series was there, plus you got to see how the citizens of Stars Hollow had evolved to deal with the technological advancements that have also taken place over the last decade. I would happily watch this entire show again, but I think what I really want is more episodes – I’ve not had enough yet!