Sorry, it’s been a while, hopefully this will make up for it…

Fair enough, it’s not a film, but I’ve watched some good TV series in the past few months and I feel it’s only fair they receive the same recognition my movie collection does.

  

True Detective, after the positive response of fans and mass critical acclaim, is an anthology series in which investigations seem to uncover secrets in both the professional and personal lives, however the how this happens isn’t always within the law…

Series 1 follows the story of Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) – two mismatched detectives put together on a case spanning 20 years. During their time working together, they see some of the cruel things human beings can do do one another, and  go through some of the lowest points in their lives. It was a very uplifting programme.

First of all, you cannot deny that with McConaughey and Harrelson heading up the cast it looks to be a stunner, and it delivers to every expectation. Yes, it’s fair to say this is a slow burner, especially in the first three episodes where, I’ll be honest, not an awful lot happens regarding gun fights and raids and arrests, but these opening episodes are crucial to introducing you to the main characters and possible lines of enquiry. They also introduce you to the ongoing investigation into the detectives themselves. True Detective flicks back and forth between 1992 and the following years when the original investigation begins and unfolds, and 2012, when the detectives’ conduct during this investigation is being questioned. This means that it takes a bit of watching, but if you enjoy it, which I can more or less guarantee will happen, you shouldn’t have too much trouble staying with the story.

Secondly, can we just take a moment to appreciate the quality performances of the main cast members. Harrelson plays Marty, who, in 1992, is a man who just cannot settle for an easy personal life. He is clearly troubled, and finds solace in his day job putting away Louisiana’s bad guys, or at least that was what he did until the Lange case came along. Over the years, it becomes apparent through Harrelson’s performance that Marty has matured a lot, but also that he has had to lose more or less everything for this to happen. Harrelson delivers a terrific performance, and despite the things he does throughout the programme, you do feel for him.

Michelle Monaghan as Marty’s wife Maggie plays a blinder as the woman whose put up with way too much for way too long. She shows the tensions placed on her family by her husband’s behaviour brilliantly, and the chemistry she is trying to ignore between her and her husband’s partner, Rust, is excellently portrayed, however, I felt that her character at time could become slightly irritating as she had a tendency to be a bit whiney. I also strongly disliked her towards the end of the series for what she did to Marty’s partner, but you’ll have to watch it to find out exactly what that was.

However, I think the hands-down star of the pilot series of True Detective is Matthew McConaughey as Rustin ‘Rust’ Cohle. This part came at the same time as did his role as Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club and I strongly believe that both of these roles worked in perfect conjunction with each other in propelling McConaughey back into the spotlight after a short career break. He plays the mysterious, brooding Rust, who has blatantly had his problems in the past, in such a captivating way you will not be able to wait for the next episode. At times, Rust’s scenes are quite heavy viewing, and this intensity is a constant feature of both time frames in which the series is filmed, but light relief is offered when car journeys between himself and Marty take place. They take the meaning of mismatched detectives to a new level, trust me.  

The boys mean business
 

Writer Nic Pizzolatto does a magnificent job with the gripping storyline, writing in a way that means you can watch each episode again and again and still see something new each time. He also builds a relationship between the audience and the two heroes that sees you rooting for them until the very end – I can definitely vouch for this, and possibly so can the neighbours who may have heard me screaming at the TV. You do build a secure bond with each of the characters, and I think it’s fair to say you also feel a bit heartbroken when the series finishes and your journey with Rust and Marty finishes – that is how much it draws you in!

So, to finish off, give this series of True Detective a watch – you will laugh, you may very well cry, but one thing is for sure, you’ll certainly be Googling any news surrounding series 2 premier dates constantly afterwards.

True Detective is shown on Sky Atlantic (UK viewers) and is also available online and in-store

The (not so) Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel follows the tale of eccentric hotel concierge M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) and a lobby boy he befriends whilst caught up in an investigation into the mysterious death of a loyal customer of the hotel he is employed by.

Now, I am very aware that I may be upsetting many people when I say that The Grand Budapest Hotel is possibly one of the worst films I have watched of late, especially after the critical acclaim it received. The only reason I watched it was due to the reviews I had read, saying that it did not require too much thought and was a tremendous bit of fun – as opposed to… removing your eyeballs with an ice cream scooper? Marginally, maybe. I had no idea what to expect when it came to sitting down and watching it, however, I did expect a hell of a lot more than what was actually delivered, so much so, that after 48 minutes of watching Ralph Fiennes parade around in a tailcoat with a lobby boy following like a lost sheep, I had lost the will to live, and I turned it off and went to bed, completely and utterly disappointed with what I had seen.

There was just nothing in it for me that made me want to keep watching. I’m not saying there are not people out there that will watch it and believe it to be the best film ever made, because obviously to have received so many positive reviews, it has clearly appealed to a wide audience. However, this is not an audience I am a member of. Maybe I just wasn’t of the intellectual capacity to see beyond what was actually put in front of me? All I saw for what I was able to endure was basically a one man opera of a man describing the meaning of life in an way that was trying abominably hard to be funny, but just wasn’t. 

After watching only 48 minutes of The Grand Budapest Hotel, I don’t feel that I can say an awful lot more about the sorry affair I found it to be. I will just finish by saying if you like films where things actually happen, probably give this a miss.

The Departed



A mob boss raises one of his own to infiltrate a police force and feed out inside information on high profile investigations into his organisation. But it would seem two can play that game…

Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) has practically run his part of Boston for years via dodgy dealings and violence despite any amount of police operations to bring down his gang. Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) was practically raised by Costello and trains as an officer of the law in order to access information about cases against his boss’s gang. However, this happens just as the police are about to send William Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) undercover into Costello’s gang, and it inevitably becomes an issue of who can sniff the rat out first.

The Departed is a wonderful modern day thriller with a story that is both well written, well directed and ultimately well acted. Jack Nicholson adopts the persona audiences have been captivated by in previous films such as The Shining and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest as mob boss Costello and proves that the years have not mellowed him. Nicholson’s talent shines through as his character grows more and more unstable with the ever growing knowledge that there is a wasp in the hornet’s nest. Matt Damon as Colin Sullivan is a far cry from the good guy he normally is, with his nature constantly changing from someone who is in control to becoming instantly unpredictably whenever a situation isn’t going his way and he isn’t impressing Costello. Leonardo DiCaprio as William Costigan however is truly magnificent. William is a young man desperate to join the police, but struggles immensely due to his somewhat checkered past. Due to his connections with Costello’s gang, William is told in order to prove himself as a loyal and trustworthy candidate, he must infiltrate the gang. DiCaprio played his character brilliantly, perfectly showing the way William was trapped by the decisions he had had to make, and the way this affected him as a person. How this man has not had an Oscar yet is beyond me.

There is also a few other famous faces to back up this already stellar line-up. Martin Sheen and Mark Wahlberg play the cops in charge of the undercover unit and are the bad guys at the start who force Costigan into the job he is very reluctant to take. Alec Baldwin heads up the department penetrated by Sullivan and Costello’s gang is reinforced with the likes of Ray Winstone and Mark Rolston who we all hated as Boggs in The Shawshank Redemption.

As said before, this film is very well directed by the one and only Martin Scorsese, and I believe it to have been as successful during awards season due to the simplicity of its concept. The story is well written, but the way it was executed made for gritty, realistic viewing. The urgency portrayed by the police force to sniff out the rat was very believable, and the heat felt by Damon as Sullivan was felt by the audience as well. 

For me, The Departed did not have the ‘try hard’ element Gangs Of New York possessed – it knew what it was good at and that was enough to carry the film, instead of creating a story that was too complicated for its own well-being in an effort to catapult the film into a new level of notoriety, and this was something that also worked in its favour.

Overall, I strongly believe The Departed to be worth two and half hours of everybody’s time. I very much enjoyed every minute of it, and it certainly, at times, surprised me by taking a sudden turn off of the beaten path without making for a ridiculous plot. It is certain to have you flying by the seat of your pants and rooting for all that is good to come out on top.

The Departed is available online and in-store now.

It goes even further than The Place Beyond The Pines



The lives of two men from very different backgrounds collide, and when events take an unexpected yet unavoidable twist, many lives are changed forever.

Luke (Ryan Gosling) is a fairground motorcycle stuntman and racer, longing to rekindle his romance with former lover Romina (Eva Mendes) after discovering she has secretly given birth to his son whilst he was out of town. Luke wants to quit the carnival life in order to provide for his new family and get back into their lives, but has to go to extremes by committing a series of daylight bank robberies, aided by his extraordinary riding ability. The pressure is only heightened when he is put on a crash course with ambitious police officer Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper) who is looking to quickly move up the ranks in a police department riddled with corruption.

What I really liked about this film was that it was nothing like what I had expected it to be personally, yet it still ended up being absolutely fantastic. The storyline is so cleverly written, with each and every character’s life being intertwined so beautifully, and very easy to follow at the same time – which can be a very difficult thing to achieve – so well done to Derek Cianfrance who wrote the story as well as directed. What is also brilliant is the varying types of characters portrayed in the film. For instance, Gosling plays Luke who comes from a fairly disadvantaged background with only his mother to raise him. Whereas Cooper as Avery has to play a man who has grown up with his dad as his hero in a privileged atmosphere that allowed him to go to college and become a lawyer, only to decide to become a police officer.

However, what was probably the best feature of The Place Beyond The Pines was the underlying issue that told of how one mistake in your life can affect you and all those around you forever.

If I had to pick any faults with this film, it would be that both Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper were not in it for anywhere near long enough (but that is just mine, and possibly many other women’s point of view). 

All performances throughout were epic. Gosling and Cooper are knockouts as their troubled characters, and an appearance from Ray Liotta as one of the corrupt officers sends shivers down your spine as he gives an insight as to what very often goes on within police forces. However, Dane DeHaan as Jason is absolutely fabulous. As a newcomer, you are always aware that he could make or break what had been a good film, but DeHaan turns what could’ve been a good film into a great film as a teen who has been misled about his childhood.

As I said before, Derek Cianfrance does a wonderful job of directing what will surely one day be one of the greats. His screen and story writing are very well done, but the that probably defines The Place Beyond The Pines is the soundtrack. Powerful tracks are used throughout the film and coney the atmosphere superbly.

All in all, this film is, quite simply, excellent. The music and directing is good. The storyline is great. But what ties this all together is the extraordinary performances of all the actors and actresses involved, and who all should feel very honoured to be able to add The Place Beyond The Pines to their CVs for they have created a piece of art.

Locke: By all means a pleasant surprise



It can take years to make a life for yourself, but it can take minutes to destroy it forever.

Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) has what seems to be the perfect life. He has a perfect family, his dream job and tomorrow is set to be the crowning glory of his career. However, one phone call changes everything, and Locke has to make a decision that will change his life forever.

If I told you that this film is basically a man driving along the M1 making phone calls for 82 minutes, you wouldn’t expect it to be thriller of the year, would you? No, you wouldn’t. But, amazingly, I would put it as a contender as one of the best films of 2014. It’s cleverly written dialogue and carefully picked mix of characters make this film a work of art – something which, if you looked solely at the nature of Locke, you would think would be unachievable. Yes, the film is extremely reliant on these two particular aspects, but that the beauty of it. Locke is a National Lottery funded British film, which means to the average Joe it had no huge Hollywood blockbuster-style budget. As a result, there wasn’t enough money to be taking out helicopters with cars or blowing up skyscrapers. Therefore, to make up for the lack of action, a riveting storyline had to be put in place, which is often forgotten about with a lot of the action-packed Hollywood blockbusters these days. Locke strips back the idea of a thriller to the bare bones of a good story and contrasting or conflicting characters, and succeeds in doing so.

However, I think writer Steven Knight has actor Tom Hardy to be thankful for in making Locke as good as it is. Hardy’s performance as the troubled Ivan is an absolute masterclass in acting, and I strongly believe that it is his performance that got this film off the ground. Hardy handles Ivan’s character with sincerity, making the performance believable and ultimately gripping. He shows the way Ivan is dealing with his crisis of being impeccably, and the way he portrays the man’s emotions just as his world his crumbling around him is clearly very heart-felt when speaking to his on-screen family, especially Ivan’s two sons who are amongst some of the innocent people caught up in his double life.

The likes of Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson and Andrew Scott provide voice-over performances which also play a vital role as without them, the film would stay only inside the car Ivan is driving. These performances take the form of the phone calls Ivan makes to various people throughout the film and let you use your imagination to decide just how these people react to the news he has to tell them. 

The only criticism I have is, as good as Locke was, it did feel as though there was something missing. I can’t quite put my finger on what it was, but you will probably feel the same when you see it. It just didn’t seem to be complete, whether I just didn’t like the way it started or ended, but whatever it was that let it down a tiny bit for me, it didn’t impact the film massively, which means I can’t complain too much.

All in all, I think it’s fair to say Locke is worth a watch. Granted, Tom Hardy doesn’t do an awful lot like he has done in previous roles, but he does a tremendous job of playing a regular bloke in possibly his hardest hour and I think it also reminds the film industry just what an amazing film you can make with the minimum of a well-written story and solid acting.

Locke is available online and in-store now.

No country for the faint-hearted more like…

Why can’t a guy just find $2million and live happily ever after in his trailer with his wife? I’ll tell you why. Because if he did, you would never have been gifted with this absolute gem by the Coen brothers.

War veteran Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) thinks all of his birthdays have come at once when he stumbles across a bungled drug deal and finds the money used to pay for the drugs there for the taking. He goes home with the money, but it would seem that he is not the only one who wants it as Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) makes it his personal business to see that he also gets his hands on the cash. However, Chigurh is a murderous psychopath, therefore anybody who gets in the way of this, or just generally crosses his path, is going to wind up dead some way or another. In essence, No Country For Old Men is a cat and mouse chase where the mouse stands to win everything.

Obviously, the fact that this is a film by Joel and Ethan Coen sets the bar for expectations pretty high, and when you have high expectations of a film, they very often have the habit of not delivering quite what you were hoping for. Now, I am very happy to be able to tell you this is not the case with No Country For Old Men. It has a thought-provoking storyline, and the screenplay is beautifully adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name. Needless to say it was a deserved winner of its four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

However, it’s fine having a beautifully written script and screenplay provided you have the performances to back it all up. Tommy Lee Jones plays ageing sheriff Ed Tom Bell, who is having to oversee the horrific crimes being carried out by Chigurh. Throughout the film, it is clear that Bell is thinking about quitting the force as chasing serial killers around the country is a young man’s game, hence where the title originates from. Jones puts on a brooding performance as the veteran cop, and Brolin has us all rooting for Moss to get away with the money so he and his wife Norma-Jean (Kelly MacDonald) can live the rest of their days quite contently in rural Texas. For me though, the person who makes this film the masterpiece it is, is Javier Bardem. Back in 2007 when No Country For Old Men was made, Bardem was unknown outside of Spain. But since then, he’s been hard to forget. He won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role, and for good reason too. As the formidable Anton Chigurh, Bardem sends shivers down spines whenever he is on-screen. He has the ability to change the atmosphere and tempo of the film in an instant with his memorable appearance and silent ways. It is in the opening scene where we get a sense of Chigurh’s brutality and the impact he is going to have on the film, but it is at many points later on where it is revealed how intense his presence actually is. I can guarantee you will be holding your breath and teetering on the edge of your seat as this man gets closer to getting what he wants.



Chigurh takes movie bad guys to a new level


If I had to pick a fault with No Country For Old Men, it would be the ending. After the high-octane chase and unforgettable performances, I felt that the finish was a bit of an anti-climax which also left a few questions unanswered. Or was that the whole point of it? Maybe it was the writer’s intention to leave the audience to use their imagination when it came to deciding the fates of some of the characters…

Overall, No Country For Old Men is an essential watch for anybody who wants to call themselves a film fan. It will have you hooked from start to finish, and be warned, if you’re anything like me, DO NOT watch this with a drink in your hand – Chigurh will make you throw it over yourself and anybody sat near you.

No Country For Old Men is available online and in-store now.

Out Of The Furnace, and into the fire

If a cruel twist of fate landed you in prison and your family resorted to extreme measures just to get by, would you risk everything to fix what had been broken, no matter the cost?

That is exactly what Russell Baze (Christian Bale) has to decide in Out Of The Furnace, a gripping thriller from epic director Ridley Scott. He and his brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) have never led brilliant lives, but they’ve always had enough to get by. But when Rodney starts borrowing money from John Petty (Willem Dafoe) he can’t keep up repayments, so turns to street boxing in order to fix fights and win Petty his money back. However, when Rodney gets ahead of himself and goes to fight in one of the most violent crime rings in the Northeast, he ends up in a world he can find no way out of, and it’s down to big brother Russell to take care of him.

Immediately, the first thing about this film that grabs you is the stellar cast. Bale and Affleck are supported by the likes of Woody Harrelson (who, can I just say, acts his socks off), Forest Whitaker, Zoe Saldana and Sam Shepard. You just know that if the film is on par with its all-star line-up, you are in for one hell of a ride. And it does not disappoint! Right from the beginning, you are immersed in the bond between the brothers, and you cannot help but find yourself rooting for the pair to come out on top in the hard life they’ve had to live.

However, what becomes apparent as you watch is the intricate storyline that you find yourself incapable of pulling away from. Massive plot twists also inject fresh pathways for the story to take, so you can never be sure of what could be around the corner for any of the characters.

The performances from each and every actor in this film are sublime. Bale and Affleck put on absolutely stunning shows as the struggling brothers, and Bale in particular portrays the character of a man caught between a rock and a hard place tremendously. Affleck as troubled Rodney is very moving at times, but he shines most in a confrontational scene opposite Bale, where we can see the deep-running scars from his past. Contrary to the vast majority of opinions that these two actors are the stars of Out Of The Furnace, I strongly believe that Woody Harrelson as Harlan DeGroat should’ve received Academy recognition for his portrayal of the hill-billy gangster. At certain points in the film, Harrelson’s character could turn on a sixpence, as though someone had flicked a switch to go from a fairly reasonable guy to drug crazed maniac, reminiscent of Joe Pesci’s performance in Goodfellas which won him Best Supporting Actor.

Director Ridley Scott has pieced together a superb thriller in a series of fantastic locations. Camera work fabulously captures the emotions of characters and the atmosphere of the story, allowing you to lose yourself in the film.

Basically, I think it’s fair to say you can’t go wrong with this intense,y gripping film about brotherhood and bonds that will tie no matter what happens. It has everything going for it: a fabulous story and an amazing cast, all put together by a very commendable director. Out Of The Furnace is and absolute must-see, but be warned – you will not be able to tear yourself away from start to finish.

Out Of The Furnace is available online and in-store now.