No Shame in admitting this is a very interesting film


A man with a carefully managed private life has everything thrown into disarray when his sister stops with him for an indefinite stay.
Sex-dependent Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a functioning addict. He hides behind the facade of a good job and swanky apartment doing whatever he has to to manage his addiction in between frequent hook-ups with women he often just picks out during his commute on the subway. However, one evening he arrives home to find his sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan), has taken up residence in his apartment, and suddenly the micro-managed life he has worked so hard to maintain comes crashing down. His private life and work life begin to blur into one another, and slowly but surely Brandon begins to lose the little bit of control he had.

So, I watched Shame. I’m a fan of Michael Fassbender, so it was only a matter of time before I saw it. It’s a, shall we say, interesting film, there’s no denying that. I don’t really know what I was expecting to be completely honest – it’s not like it said in the film’s description that it was about a sex addict or anything like that. 

No matter what the film’s subject matter was though, I knew that with Fassbender heading up the cast I was in safe hands. Does he ever give a bad performance? There were times I found him quite uncomfortable to watch, although I have to admit I’d imagine this would have been far worse had I decided to watch the film with my parents. I feel as though Fassbender really captured the desperation that comes with any addition very well indeed, and the reason it was perhaps so hard to watch at times was because it felt so realistic. Maybe my blushes were a sign of a good job on his part.

Carey Mulligan was just as good as Fassbender, and is probably the unsung hero of the whole film. She plays the one person who Brandon manages to have a serious relationship with (not THAT kind of relationship though, I am talking purely brother and sister, no more than that). She is the only person who really seems able to humanise him in any way, which I think is important because otherwise it would be all too easy to view him with disgust. Her and Fassbender share one scene in particular in the film that is absolutely tremendous. It was shot in one take and I think epitomises the way things are between the two of them.

There wasn’t a storyline as such as this was more of a character study than anything else. There was no major antagonist in the film at all, it was just a case of Brandon being his own worst enemy. It was a very intriguing study if I’m honest, I don’t recall ever having watched a film centred around addiction like this before. In my eyes, it was very original.

The writing behind it was also… I’d say good, but for how it left me feeling about Fassbender afterwards, I’m not entirely sure that would be the right word. All I’ll say is I’m going to have to go to church a few times after what he said. I did cringe a bit, but I guess that’s just a sign of how impactful writer and director Steve McQueen’s work was.

While I might not be overly certain about what to make of Shame, I can’t deny that it had quite a handful of positives going for it, and I’d say that my uncertainty about my feelings towards the film is probably a sign of how successful it was in gaining a reaction from audiences. It isn’t a film I’ll be recommending to my parents to watch, so that should be reasonably indicative of the content to be found here, but it does shed a light on human nature, whilst also proving that Michael Fassbender is a gifted man in more ways than one.

The glorious truth about Big Little Lies

The perfect lives of three mothers of first graders unravel, resulting in murder.

When Jane Chapman (Shailene Woodley) moves to Monterey with her son Ziggy to escape her past, she is quickly befriended by Madeleine Mackenzie (Reese Witherspoon), who introduces her to Celeste Wright (Nicole Kidman). Together, the three become a formidable trio amongst the rest of the mums at their kids’ school, especially in the wake of a playground incident after which, Ziggy is witch hunted by the other children and parents. What unfolds is a tale of ex-husbands, second wives and school yard scandals, all in between the little white lies that they all tell to uphold the fronts each of these women present to the world.

I’d heard a lot about Big Little Lies following it’s premier in the U.S. a couple of months ago, and seeing it would be shown soon after on Sky Atlantic, I thought I too would give it a spin, although I hadn’t expected it to be my thing at all. I was, however, proven wrong, and thankfully so, because here I am now sharing what a wonderful show it was with you.

The three lead performances here were tremendous. Woodley, Witherspoon and Kidman were all as brilliant as each other in their own special ways, but I have to say that the latter name mentioned just pipped the other two for the title of best performance in this series. If there is a god, or any sort of higher power in existence, Kidman will be nominated for an Emmy for her portrayal of Celeste Wright. Celeste was such a complex character, and in each of the seven episodes that made up this mini-series more and more was revealed about her. There were so, so many layers to this particular character, and for her alone I was willing to return for the next instalment each week.

The story was very simple, yet also very complex, if that makes any sense at all. If you strip the story back to the very basics, it is essentially a whodunnit, only the thing here is we don’t know a) who the killer is or b) who the victim is, so already it’s a small twist on the traditional. Add then the numerous points of conflict that arise throughout the course of the seven episodes and you struggle to come to a definitive conclusion on what the motive might be as well, which scuppers any chance of you being able to come up with a very shortlist of suspects. It was very refreshing to see the story told in this way, and while I had my guesses at who had ended up dead as a result of the many chains of events shown in the series, I was never exactly sure of who, how or why until the dying moments of the finale.

So, despite my initial scepticism, I have to say that Big Little Lies may very well be one of the best new shows of 2017, if not the best. I am going to be keeping my eye out for the book from which the story was adapted for the screen, because while I was very impressed by this series, I have an inkling that there is even more to be taken from the book, which is the case more often than not. What makes this so intriguing is the way the story is told, but just as important are the performances that deliver us this story. If you’ve not seen Big Little Lies, I would urge you to watch it, as it may very well be one of the greatest things you’ll watch this year.

Winter’s Bone gives you plenty to chew on


An Ozark mountain girl is forced to go in search of her drug-dealing father when the safety of her family is threatened.In the Ozark mountain community, Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) has to raise her younger brother and sister and care for her mentally-ill mother. All she has to help her is the house she lives in, and when her drug-dealing father fails to show in court, her and her family risk losing it. The only way to prevent the imminent seizure of assets is if Ree can find her father. She embarks on her search, but encounters much resistance from the community, amongst which Ree’s father had made a lot of enemies, meaning that her quest for the survival of her family may not be an easy one.

I’d heard a lot of good things about Winter’s Bone prior to watching it. Some people say that it is the one Oscar nomination Jennifer Lawrence has received that nobody can argue with, and that the story is a very gritty, realistic one. After watching the film, I have to say I completely agree with both of the above statements.

At the age of nineteen, Lawrence did a wonderful job as Ree. I am a fan of her work, and I do think that we will see a lot of very impressive performances from her for years to come, but this was a very good (I guess you could say breakout?) role. Part of me wishes that this had been the first film of hers that I had seen just because the element of anonymity would have increased the overall authenticity of her character, but I can’t say really that my prior knowledge of Lawrence’s work detracted very much at all. She completely captured the grit, determination and also desperation of Ree, who ultimately was just trying to keep her family together. 

John Hawkins (who I’m currently enjoying in the very early episodes of Deadwood) played Ree’s uncle, Teardrop. I loved his performance because, although he was a hard man, he had his priorities right and did what he had to do in order to protect his family. There was something quite lovely about the bond that became evident between him and Ree as the film progressed, which added buckets to the film.

What really caught my eye whilst watching this film was the cinematography and the colours within the shots. The landscapes that were captured were beautiful, yet the lack of bright colours conveyed the bleakness that was such a huge part of life for these people. I also feel like the two together also said something far more profound than what I can find words for about the story, which was rather straightforward, but told incredibly well. The characters were all very realistic, and the whole thing reflected the harshness of life, regardless of whether its in the mountains or not, very well indeed. There was just such a great sense of realism surrounding the piece that there were times I found myself thinking that the whole thing could actually have been based on actually events because it was nothing out of the ordinary, yet very riveting to watch.

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.

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.

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!