Review – A Walk Among The Tombstones


I think I may have witnessed the best film Liam Neeson has been in in recent years.

A Walk Among The Tombstones is a 2014 crime drama following tormented ex-cop turned private investigator Matt Scudder, played here by the good man himself Mr Neeson. The story sees Matt trying to catch the criminal masterminds behind the disappearances of a series of women, whilst also dealing with a few demons of his own. Granted, this is the kind of character that’s been done to death over the years, but there are reasons why these types of guys are a popular choice – they work. Is it playing it safe? Quite possibly. However, over-complicating things is so often the downfall of many films and the people behind them. It was nice to see simple done well here, with a number of things attributing to my enjoyment of the film.

We’ll start with characters and the performances of the people who played them. Obviously we have Neeson playing our hero here. As Matt, he was your typical tough guy, pulling all the old tricks in order to comprehend suspects. I liked the fact that there was a touch of Dirty Harry about Matt. In fact, the whole film felt like an homage to these kinds of old school cop films which is definitely something that helped it garner my affections. It was a role that I think suited Neeson down to the ground. He didn’t feel like an ageing action man trying to stay relevant. Instead, he took on a solid role, put in a shift, and made sure it paid off.

Something else that made it easy to like Neeson in this film was the chemistry he shared with Astro, who played TJ, Matt’s wannabe partner. It was a such a likeable pairing. There was a lot of tough love handed out between them, which could serve to make you laugh but was also a reminder of the harsh setting of the film, which was New York circa 1999. I think the addition of TJ into the mix humanised Matt a lot. When he was around, Matt became more of a father figure as opposed to hardened, seen it all cop. Likewise, Matt’s presence transformed TJ. Both performances were very complimentary of each other, bringing out the best in either actor.

One thing I absolutely loved about this film is the look of it. The dull, dreary tones really suited the story and the characters. Everything seems to have a layer of grey cast over it, meaning you were never allowed to forget about the dark nature of the crimes at the centre of the story. This was also something that felt like a nod to the detective stories of yesteryear, which was a nice touch.

Also owing to the gorgeous appearance of this film is the cinematography. Having done the work I have done for the last year now I can honestly say that I would be so proud of myself if i had captured so many of the shots that make up this film. Some of it was genuinely stunning to look at.

A Walk Among The Tombstones turned out to be a far more pleasant surprise than I had anticipated it to be. It’s a film I really enjoyed and wouldn’t mind too much if we got a follow-up to it, although I doubt that’ll happen. It looked good, and did so many of the people who featured in it a lot of favours. Neeson is, I think, the best he’s been in a long time, and glides into the seasoned cop role effortlessly. This is absolutely worth the watch if you’ve missed it up until now.

Review – Ozark Season 1


A financial advisor is forced to move his family to a rural community when the money of one of his firm’s clients goes missing.
For years, Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) has led a very uneventful life. As a financial advisor stuck in a marriage on a downward slope, he has had little in the way of excitement of late. However, the life that he has been struggling to hold together is thrown into even greater disrepair when one of Marty’s clients, who just so happens to be part of a huge Mexican drug cartel, discovers some of his money has gone missing. When Marty promises to make the money back, he is forced to relocate his entire family to the Ozarks, where it would seem even more trouble awaits.

Ozark is one of the latest shows to come from Netflix, and, my word, is it a knockout. Billed as a mix of Breaking Bad and Fargo with a little bit of Jason Bateman thrown in for good measure, this certainly seemed to have all the ingredients that would make it a roaring success with Netflix users. All I can say is the ten episodes flew by, and I already very excited to see where season two takes us.

A few things occurred to me whilst I was watching this. One of those things was that Jason Bateman is brilliant. I might be jumping the gun a bit here, but I can definitely see where people were coming from when they were likening this to Breaking Bad. I was getting some serious Walter White vibes from him at times (before he became Heisenberg at least). He was doing what he was having to do for the sake of his family, and I think you always get interesting performances from people when they play a character dealing with those circumstances. Laura Linney’s character, Wendy, grew on me as the show progressed, and I think she really came into her own in the last few episodes when Wendy accepted the situation she was in and decided to take control. One of my other favourite characters was Ruth Langmore, who has a very significant part to play in the whole story. She was played by Julia Garner who really drew you in with her performance, and I’m intrigued to see how her own story plays out from here because she was so good.

I was a big fan of the story told here. I liked the idea of all the upheaval the family faced right from the off, but I also liked how it was never once plain sailing for them even after ‘settling’ in their new home. The Byrdes ruffled so many feathers when they landed, and the ripples were felt all throughout the show. What stood out for me though was the fact it wasn’t like a problem occurred, the main character solved the problem, and then a new, completely unrelated issue arose, but more the idea that new antagonists came along and the story evolved and then carried them with it. I’m not sure if that makes sense to you guys, but for me it does and I’m hoping that if you’ve seen the show, or are going to see it, you’ll find out what I mean. 

The writing that went into the show was just as good as every other aspect of it. It combined so many different things and balanced them perfectly in my opinion. There were some super intense scenes, but there was also a fair amount of dry, witty dialogue which is always a hit with me. This all helped to keep the show moving along nicely, and meant you didn’t get worn out watching it because there was some variance in the overall tempo.

On the whole, I think you should give Ozark a go. This is a show that has the potential to become yet another of Netflix’s huge hits, and I think that’s a good indicator of the kind of quality you’re getting here. If you liked Breaking Bad, which I did until they ballsed up the final season, then this is definitely a show you should pay some attention to. And if you’re just some one who likes a kind of alternative crime thriller type thing, you should also give this a watch. Ozark is going to go onto big things I reckon – jump on the bandwagon now and save yourself the task of having to catch up before everyone else has the chance to ruin for you.

Review – In The Dark Season 1


In The Dark is a TV show that was brand new this year. It follows Detective Helen Weeks (MyAnna Buring) as she embarks upon two separate case in two two-part stories. I have to be honest and say that I was not overly impressed by this programme. It was only watchable at best, which was quite disappointing considering the amount of talent boasted by the cast.
Before I get into any real slating of the show, I’ll quickly cover the main performance. The obvious place to start is with MyAnna Buring, who was the main draw for me here. I’m a fan of her work due to Ripper Street and the characters she has always seemed to portray – I’ve never been able to accuse her of playing meek women, and that’s why I like her work so much. In that respect, I should’ve been all over her as Helen here, but something just didn’t click for me. I don’t think that’s down to Buring’s performance though. Much of this show was held down by the script, which was very clunky in multiple places, quite often losing rhythm at key points in the story. And, as is often the case, good actors were brought crashing to the ground by it.

In The Dark was adapted from a series of books which just didn’t seem to translate very well to the screen for how many problems this show was laden with. The biggest issue as I’ve pointed out already was the script – it was very unnatural in places. It just seemed knock the pace of the show for six at some of what were supposed to be the biggest points in the two stories. When it makes audiences sort of recoil a bit, I think that’s a sign that something isn’t up to scratch. You just knew that this wasn’t the way people really talk, and it took a huge amount away from the show.

I’m not even entirely sure how to feel about the story. Both seemed to be quite generic plots that could just as easily have been part of any other show crime show. There just wasn’t anything particularly special at all about either tale, and as for the ending to the second case? How about we just ignore the fact that it tried very hard to give us an edgy finish that absolutely did not float my boat? I just don’t understand why you’d try and do that when the majority of the rest of the show up to that point had been something of a shambles.

Anyway, you might have gathered by now that I wasn’t sold on In The Dark. I don’t think it’ll be making a return, but if it does I shan’t be watching it. It was a huge disappointment considering what could have been done with it, and I think I’ve pointed out in previous reviews that I really hate seeing wasted potential in whatever I watch. So much more could’ve been done with this, but in the end, it failed to deliver.

Review – Fortitude Season 2


The sub-zero drama returns, picking up weeks after where season one left off, only to reveal that what took place before was just the tip of the iceberg.Anyone who read my review of the pilot season of Sky Atlantic’s Fortitude will know that while I thought it was quite an enjoyable show when it premiered, I didn’t think it quite warranted the hype it got a couple of years ago. Nonetheless, I was still rather excited for the drama to return this year. As it turned out, I actually got into the second season a lot more, with the show becoming the highlight of my Thursday evenings for the last ten weeks.

I think it’s fair to say that the show took a more supernatural/horror twist this time around, and with that transition came a couple of brilliant performances, most notably from Richard Dormer, who returned as Sheriff Dan Anderson, but not quite as we knew him last season. Upon returning, it soon became clear that Dan had been a rare survivor of the wasp infestation, however he was far from his old self. Dormer played an absolutely terrific part this season! He gave Dan a real sense of unpredictability – one that left you unsure of what he would do next, or what he was truly capable of. He was brilliant to watch as he descended further into madness with each episode that passed, and is one of the reasons why I’m highly anticipating a third season of Fortitude.

Also worth mentioning is the introduction of Robert Sheehan in the role of Vladic, or The Shaman, whichever of the two you prefer. I thought he was great as the so-called saviour of Fortitude following the infestation. He also added very nicely to the snowy landscapes (if you get what I’m saying), which is always a bonus. His character went head to head with Dormer’s Dan, and there was something that was so tense about the scenes in which the two of them came face to face. They worked really well together in my opinion, really enhancing each other’s work.

I found this season to be far more gripping than the first. It seemed to get going much quicker than the pilot did, perhaps because it just picked up where it had left off, and didn’t need to set the scene from scratch all over again. To start off with, a lot of silly things happened, and while it was fast-paced, a number of things weren’t making a lot of sense. However, the story developed more as it went along, and soon enough everything began to fall into place. When this started happening, the show started to get a lot better, and the week long wait for each new episode got pretty awful. Unfortunately though, things were too good to be true because, as is always the case with big British dramas (although which such a stellar international cast, I don’t quite see how I can call it British all by itself), it ended stupidly. When the last episode finished, I genuinely sat there on the living room floor, staring at the end credits and was like ‘Are you trying to piss me off?’. What a way to end it, you know? This show was on top form for nine and three quarter episodes, and it managed to undo all of that in a ten minute timeframe with an explosion and a handful of bullets. It was the big-budget TV show equivalent of hearing you’ve got five minutes left to finish an exam paper you’re only half-way through, so you just start writing random stuff on the paper and hope for the best. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. All I can say is I hope that season three materialises because that’s the only thing I can think of that will justify such an ending.

Overall, for the large part, season two of Fortitude was way better than the pilot. It was good to return to characters who we were already familiar with in the aftermath of the devastation we witnessed last time around. Some of the actors really proved themselves as things unfolded, and the story, if I can try to put the ending to the back of my mind, was far more gripping than that we had to follow before. I’d recommend the show to you, but just be prepared for an ending that was somewhat half-baked.


Don’t forget – I’m co-hosting a the Play To The Whistle Blogathon throughout June! Get in touch if you’re interested in taking part.

Review – A Most Violent Year


In 1981, an ambitious immigrant living the American dream has to fight to protect his family and his business in New York City’s most violent year in history.The winter of 1981 was statistically the most violent year for New York City. At this time, Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac), an immigrant who has made a life for himself in America, finds everything he has worked for under attack from rivals and those apparently in charge of justice in the city. He struggles to keep on top of everything that is being thrown at him whilst staying within the constraints of the law. Meanwhile, Abel also owes money to some big people, and with the interest currently being paid to him by the law, no one will loan him the money to pay them off. Abel’s wife Anna (Jessica Chastain), offers to ask her father for help, but the business man is intent on sticking to his morals, no matter what.

A Most Violent Year is one of the many films that I had been meaning to watch for a long time, so when I discovered that it was on Netflix last weekend, I made it my business to see it. I could remember having seen a review of the film when it was out in the cinemas a couple of years ago saying that it was a very slick gangster drama, so it was a title that had been stuck in my mind since then. Upon finally sitting down and watching it, I have to say that I was very impressed.

There were two brilliant lead performances here. Oscar Isaac was on another level as Abel, and I’m not exaggerating one bit when I say that, for me, his portrayal of the businessman was reminiscent of Michael Corleone from the one and only Godfather trilogy, yet didn’t feel at all like a cheap imitation. Jessica Chastain was every bit his equal as Anna, who proved exactly why she is one of my favourite actresses. Her character was such a huge part of the film, and I feel like she represented the battle that Abel fought every day in the way that she tended to take extreme action first and then think much later on, as opposed to his very collected way of weighing up the situation before dealing with it. As I’ve already said, both of these performances were terrific, complimenting each other completely, and also going way under the radar with so many people.

The story here is one that is really quite typical of the gangster genre, but as mentioned before, the film managed to present this story in a way that it didn’t feel as though it was ripping off any of the legendary films that came before it. It is plain as day that A Most Violent Year takes much of it’s inspiration from films such as The Godfather, however it maintains a sense of it’s own originality throughout, which is what I though was so great. A fine example of this can be seen with the very active role that Anna takes in the business, which is not usually the case with the women in these types of film.

All in all, A Most Violent Year was a good choice to watch last weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, which was made so wonderful by the captivating performances that led it. It was also nice to see the nods to other films in the genre that had so clearly shaped how this turned out. It is a film I’d recommend to people for the simple fact that it was very entertaining despite some of it’s more serious themes, some of which are more relevant than ever in today’s climate. So, what are you waiting for?

Make sure you check out my post about the upcoming Play To The Whistle Blogathon if you missed it yesterday!

Review – No Offence Season 2


The dream team return for another case, this time dealing with the head of one of Manchester’s biggest crime syndicates.
No Offence is one of those shows that I had never really anticipated being anywhere near as good as it actually turned out to be. Season one blew us all away in 2015, and with the promise of the show making a return, the next season could not come soon enough. After waiting almost two years, the show made a triumphant return. All I can say is season three had better hurry up – I’m missing the show already.

One thing that stood out to everyone when this show first arrived on the scene was it’s use of stonkingly good female characters. God knows that throughout history in both film and TV such things have been a lot harder to come by than they have been for men, but this show straightaway presented us with three wonderful women. This time around, we got four. The crime boss Deering, Dinah and Joy were trying to take down was Nora Attah, played by Rakie Ayala. She was brilliant in the role and was a terrific match for Joanna Scanlan’s Viv Deering.

Of course, there are some men in the show. Paul Ritter plays one of the best characters on TV at the minute in this show if you ask me. He never fails to make me laugh as Miller, who kind of does some of the CSI stuff. He is a prime example of the talents of writer Paul Abbott, who also wrote Shameless, and is always a highlight of every episode he appears in.

No Offence is billed as a comedy, and yes, it is very, very funny. The good thing about the show is that it doesn’t just rely on laughs to keep it’s audience engaged. What left me so impressed with season one was it’s brilliantly devised crime saga. No one had managed to guess the culprit in season one, and I was certainly looking forward to the same in this year’s run. The outline was slightly different, but the sheer quality of the writing was exactly the same, if not marginally better. I know I moaned a lot about the two year wait for the show’s return, but I guess it may not have been as good the second time around if it wasn’t for such a lengthy wait.

Once again, No Offence was an excellent watch, and may very well be one of this year’s best shows. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, I would definitely say to watch it. I don’t know if it is a show that will work for international audiences, but there is only one way to find out. Even if the jokes fall flat for some people, the story itself should be plenty to retain your attention. This is definitely a show I will continue to be excited about, and I think plenty of other people should be too.

 

Review – Silent Witness Season 20


Now, I know it’s lazy, but please check my review of season 19 for the full description of the show. It seems silly repeating myself again this year.
So, 2017 was a big year for one of my favourite shows. Silent Witness premiered it’s 20th season! As it was such a landmark year, I had expected the show to pull out all the stops. I can at least say that this was the case with the final two-part story of the season. For much of the rest of it however, this year’s Silent Witness fell slightly below it’s usual standard, which left me asking myself a certain question…

Performances this year were given to us by the same people, but there was a greater focus on one person who I think has previously been treated as a more minor character. Liz Carr plays Clarissa, and I absolutely love her in the role. Carr makes me laugh a lot with the dry tones in which she delivers some of Clarissa’s more light-hearted lines – she always has done and I’m sure will continue to do so in future seasons of the show. It’s also great to see someone with a disability have a regular role on such a brilliant and beloved series. Finally, British TV is beginning to move forward!

A couple of the storylines for this season didn’t feel quite as riveting as others that have been covered by the show in the past. I guess after twenty seasons, I should have expected the show to feel a little tired. However, I was able to forgive the writers after watching the final two episodes of this run. Oh. My. Word. What a finale! I’m fairly certain the creators of those two episodes had recently viewed Buried and used it for inspiration, but I was still very impressed. The performances from Emilia Fox and David Caves were absolutely tremendous, and really added to the baseline tension already created by the writing. Plus, if nothing else, that very last episode just confirmed to me that all us girls need a man like Jack in our lives.

I mentioned at the beginning that I found myself asking a certain question throughout this season in regards to the future of Silent Witness, or whether indeed it should have a future beyond this point. After all, twenty years gracing our screens isn’t to be sniffed at. I had my doubts about whether it would, or should return, given that it had just felt slightly flatter than usual. However, I suppose I wasn’t ready to give it up yet as I massively rejoiced at the news it would return for it’s 21st birthday next year. Phew!

Overall, this year’s Silent Witness didn’t quite live up to expectations during it’s first four cases, but well and truly made up for it with the finale. As much as I can say I felt a tiny bit disappointed by this season, I can’t deny that I looked forward to every Monday and Tuesday evening when the episodes were being shown. It is a show that has a special hold on me, and I suspect it will have to go seriously down hill before I’ll ever be able to comprehend not watching it, so it’s dead safe for now.