I’ll lose no sleep after watching Nocturnal Animals


An art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a sadistic revenge tail.
This story within a story follows art curator Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) as she works her way through a book written and sent to her by her ex-husband. The story follows Tony Hastings (Jake Gyllenhaal) as he and his family set off on a road trip, but have their journey cut short by a bunch of psychotic rednecks who capture his wife and daughter. Tony escapes and spends a night in the desert before making his way to a police station. With Sheriff Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon), Tony makes a grisly discovery, and between them the two get to work on bringing down the gang that hijacked his journey. As she works her way through the novel, Susan finds herself recalling her first marriage, and confronting some of her most deeply bruised demons.

After missing out on Nocturnal Animals in the cinema (don’t you just love limited release films?), I’ve only just gotten round to reviewing the film. Although it required a lot of thinking on my behalf, I did enjoy the film, and it wasn’t just the lead actor who swung it for me. There was handful of great performances to deliver the story to us, and director Tom Ford completely pulled off the ambitious narrative style the film opts for.

Amy Adams made her second major appearance of the last year with her performance as Susan. Straightaway, I will say that for me personally, she wasn’t as strong here as I thought she was in Arrival. For the most part of her time as Susan, Adams gave a brooding performance as her character reflected back on a former life. She was good, just not as good as I thought she was in her other film from 2016.

Jake Gyllenhaal was great as Tony Hastings, although let’s face it, I am slightly biased on this point. he played a desperate man and was really riveting to watch as he teamed up with Michael Shannon’s Bobby Andes to try to bring his wife and daughter’s killers to justice.

That brings me onto the two supporting performances nicely. Shannon was terrific as the sheriff. He practically stole every scene he was in, and I would say that he is fully deserving of the Oscar nomination he received for his work. Aaron Taylor-Johnson was also brilliant as Ray Marcus, but I don’t think he was quite the psychopath a lot of people made him out to be.

At a first glance, it is quite difficult to see where the two different elements of this film fit together. However, after thinking about it for a while, there are so many ways the two halves can be joined up. The whole film is very open to individual interpretation, and I have no doubt that if I were to watch the film again and again, each time I would find a different way to pick everything apart.

Director Tom Ford has done a wonderful job with this film. I’ve not seen A Single Man, but from what I’ve heard, it would seem that this second film was a fine second project. His fashion designer influence was evident with so many of the shots throughout the film. I may have to sit down and watch his first film after seeing this.

On the whole, Nocturnal Animals is a magnificently dark thriller that I think deserved more recognition than it has received. Due to the nature of it’s non-linear narrative, you do need to watch it with an open mind, but if you do this, I’m pretty certain you will enjoy it.

The Long Riders (my Genre Grandeur entry)


The tale of the Jesse James gang members, their numerous exploits and their individual fates.
The Long Riders is a sympathetic portrayal of the story of the James-Younger gang that undertook a number of legendary bank robberies as way of revenge. The group, headed up by none other than Jesse James (James Keach), had their share of excitement during their time together, and went down in a blaze of glory when some plucky townspeople call time on their raids.

I’ve always been a fan of westerns – I kind of have to be given that my dad is too. I think it’s fair to say that for an 18-year-old girl, I’ve seen quite a few new and old, traditional and contemporary westerns and have enjoyed most of them. When this month’s Genre Grandeur came up, I thought it was right up my street. I had initially thought about watching something with John Wayne or Robert Mitchum in, but decided to venture a little further out in the end. The Long Riders was a decent western, but not one of my favourites, and here’s why.

The cast of this film is quite an ensemble. You have the two Keach brothers, both Quaids and three of the Carradine clan – more than fitting for a film about a gang that is made up of brothers wouldn’t you say? This benefitted the performances so much as there was a lot of real family ties that already existed. The bonds portrayed on screen just felt so genuine, and I think this made the telling of the story so much more enjoyable to watch.

There was plenty of action in this film, especially in the last half an hour or so. While I am a fan of both slow burners and fast paced movies, I perhaps edge slightly further towards the more high-octane westerns. It was really fun to watch when all the shots were being fired, and it let you see the Jesse James gang in all their glory. One of my favourite scenes in the film was when the men were trapped in a cabin by the Pinkertons chasing them, and they had to break their way through the panelling in the back and take a back route to escape. For me, it’s scenes like that that encapsulate the old west – big shoot-outs and the heroes escaping by the skin of their teeth.

I do have one big issue with the film, however, and while it may seem like a minor detail, it was a big issue for me. Some of the transitions from scene to scene were a bit rushed. the biggest example I can give you of this is at the end of the film when Jesse meets his maker. The big moment happens, and then straightaway the shot cut to the scene of Frank James, played by Stacy Keach, handing himself over to the authorities. This took away so much of the impact of what was one of the biggest blows the film dealt in my opinion, and I really wish that more time had been spent of making the change more meaningful.

All in all, as much as I enjoyed The Long Riders, it didn’t make enough of an impression on me to be amongst my favourite westerns. There were some rip-roaring shoot-outs and I loved the family dynamic that was made so wonderful by the fact that the cast consisted of so many brothers. What damaged the film so much in my eyes was some of the dodgy transitions between scenes. It really impacted some of the biggest moments in the film for me, which is why I cannot place it amongst the ranks of El Dorado or The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. Nonetheless, it was worth seeing, and was an hour and a half of my time well spent.

La La Land, whilst not what I expected, is 100% for the dreamers


An aspiring actress and jazz pianist fall for each other in Los Angeles as they pursue their dreams.Mia Dolan (Emma Stone) moved to L.A. from Nevada after dropping out of college in a bid to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. There, she meets Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a guy who wants to one day open his own jazz club to prevent the music style dying out. Both are brought together by their passions, but as they start to get where they’re going, the two are ultimately driven apart by long hours and the miles between them, proving that success doesn’t come without great sacrifice.

So, I got round to seeing La La Land yesterday, and I have to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what all the fuss is about. It wasn’t a bad film, don’t think that for a second, but compared to the films I saw that had been Oscar nominated last year, it wasn’t as good as those.

Both Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have been nominated for acting gongs at the Academy Awards, and Stone has already won a Golden Globe for her performance. Once again, if I’m completely open with you, I don’t think these were especially memorable performances. They weren’t bad, but they just weren’t particularly memorable characters. I did like the chemistry that was very evident between Stone and Gosling, especially during some of their dance numbers. I am also very happy that director Damien Chazelle decided to make use of Gosling’s comedic capabilities that we got to see previously in The Nice Guys. Both worked together very well and put on quite a show, but personally I feel as though I’ve seen more Oscar-worthy performances from each of them.

The music featured throughout was good, but (and hear I go, moaning yet again) for a musical, there wasn’t a stand-out feel-good sing-along track that I’ll be serenading people with for weeks to come. City Of Stars was by far my favourite song of them all, but this wasn’t exactly what I’d call the catchy anthem that La La Land will be remembered for. I think I had been expecting lively songs with vibes similar to those given to us by The Blues Brothers and The Commitments, but instead I got quite a lot of stuff that was far more melancholy than that.

Stone said in her acceptance speech at the Golden Globes that this is a film for dreamers, and that is one thing that I can still say is definitely true after seeing it. You do leave the cinema feeling that what you want to achieve in life is possible, however, the film also does well to point out that you may have to put in long hours in order to do so. This aspect of the film was something that really hit home with me, and if nothing else, I am happy that it sort of offered an encouraging kick up the arse by showing that anything is possible, even when you think you’re down and out.

On the whole, I would say that La La Land is an enjoyable film that most people will like. With regards to the number of Oscars it has been nominated for, I have to say I don’t quite agree with whoever makes these decisions, but I do understand why it has received the critical recognition it has. The film pays tribute to the Golden Age of Hollywood through modern day cinema. It’s a nostalgic homage to days gone by that looks to revive the magic of the past, but in my eyes at least, falls short of greatness.

My review of Arrival has landed


When aliens land across the globe, a linguistics experts is called in to try and decipher the messages sent by the visitors to figure out if they come in peace.
Aliens have landed in twelve different locations on Earth, and linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is asked to join the U.S. army team keeping the situation under control in the States. She is given the task of trying to figure out what it is the aliens want from humanity, but the language they use to communicate is like nothing that has ever been seen before on Earth. As her quest to establish a dialogue with these creatures unfolds, the other countries acting as host to the visitors start to see them as an increasing threat, meaning that it is a race against time to find out if the aliens are friend or foe before total war breaks out.

Considering I’m not a huge sci-fi fan, I’ve seen a decent number of those types of films lately. Arrival is the latest creation from Denis Villeneuve, and I think it’s fair to say that after watching four of his films and enjoying all of those films, I now consider myself to be quite a fan of his work. What I really liked about this film was the fact that what initially seems to be the focus of the film isn’t actually the main event. It just felt a bit different to what I’d imagine so many other alien invasion films to be like.

Amy Adams is terrific here, and the fact that she hasn’t been nominated for an Oscar is a travesty in my honest opinion. She is someone who I think has crept up through the ranks in Hollywood over a number of ranks to be where she is today, and the wait has been well worth it. It was so good to see her as Louise in what was the pivotal role in this film – without her, the world would’ve been destroyed. She was the perfect heroine and I loved every second she was on-screen.

Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker both co-starred alongside Adams here. They both played slightly different characters here, one was in full support of what Louise was trying to do and the other one wasn’t so much. They did good jobs as their characters, but I think the main purpose of them both was to highlight all the brilliance that came with Adams’ character and her performance here.

I said at the start that what I liked so much about this film was the fact that for a long time I thought it was just about an alien invasion, but was actually about something else entirely all along. I thought this was a nice little twist as it meant that the aliens weren’t so much the main event of the film, but were more of a tool to get the end product. I also loved the idea that the sole focus of the film wasn’t dead science-y. The way this whole language puzzle came about was really interesting for me to watch, and while some of the linguistics stuff went over my head as much as the science would have done, it was quite nice to delve into the details of something like language for once.

Overall, Arrival was one of those films that was a pleasant surprise for me to watch, and has certainly encouraged me to see a few more in this sub-genre of sci-fi. The characters and the themes made it feel really accessible for me as it wasn’t 100% science, and director Denis Villeneuve has well and truly cemented himself among my favourite filmmakers now. I would even go as far as saying that I could be persuaded to see the new Blade Runner film when it comes out given he is directing. Not a bad review from someone who isn’t the biggest fan of science-fiction, wouldn’t you say?

The Accountant was a good addition to my Saturday afternoon


A gifted mathematician starts uncool into the books for a new client as the Treasury Department closes in on him.Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is a man with a better affinity for numbers than people. On the surface, it would seem that he is your standard run-of-the-mill accountant, but dig a little deeper an you’ll find that he does some freelance work fixing the finances of some of the world’s biggest organised crime rings. He takes on a legitimate client in the shape of Living Robotics just as the Treasury Department’s Crime Enforcement Division headed up by Ray King (JK Simmons) begins to investigate his actions. However, as Christian sheds some light on the missing finances of his latest customer, he finds that not everything is quite what it first appeared to be.

So I finally got round to watching The Accountant this afternoon, and I have to say I enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s one of those proper action films that we have struggled to come across of late, but has bit of a twist as it’s main protagonist is somewhere on the autistic spectrum. This was something that provided a fresher take on a genre that you could say has been worn fairly thin with some diabolical releases in recent years.

I had been looking forward to seeing Ben Affleck take on the role of Christian Wolff since I saw the trailer for this film months ago. I had faith that he could get it right and finally redeem himself after fans all over the world lost their confidence in him after watching a film that came out earlier on in 2016. Admittedly, he didn’t provide the performance that I thought he would – I had expected something a couple of rungs down from Rain Man, but instead I was presented with someone who appeared to only suffer from occasional lapses in private. After thinking about it a bit, however, I think this worked far better than what I was expecting would have done, and so hats off to Affleck for what was a great performance.

The Accountant had a solid storyline with a couple of little treats right towards the end that kept me interested right until the credits started rolling. It was nice that the film didn’t get lost in a convoluted plot that was way too ambitious for it, something that I think some action thrillers have fallen foul of in the past, especially during the last few years. The fact that this story was relatively easy to keep pace with made the film all the more enjoyable, which I think some filmmakers would do well to bear in mind at times.

That being said, there were a couple of characters that I must say didn’t feel totally necessary. Anna Kendrick as Dana Cummings was good, don’t get me wrong, but the film could have survived without her. It just felt as though the writers had tried to force something into the story that wasn’t needed. I think I would have much preferred it if they had come up with some other reason for why Christian was intent on pursuing this case to the bitter end. Alas, for all it’s other saving graces, I can’t complain too much.

Overall, The Accountant is a good action film that would be ideal for a night in on the sofa after a hard week at work. It didn’t require too much thinking, was terrifically entertaining, and had some decent performances to boot. I’d say order a takeaway and turn in for the night – it would be time well spent. 

Tuesday Top Ten – TV Shows That Aired In 2016

While I may have watched more films in the cinema in 2016 than I have done any other year, I also found plenty to watch on the small screen last year as well. In no particular order, here is my rundown of my top ten TV shows that aired new episodes in 2016. Any older series that I may also have seen last year will not be featuring on this list – that’s for another day…

10. Rillington Place


This period drama that took a look at the murders committed by John Reginald Christie at 10 Rillington Place during the 1940s and 50s did really well in my book. Tim Roth was magical as the lead character, and was supported well by Samantha Morton as his wife Ethel. I really enjoyed this three-part mini-series, and would certainly recommend it to people.

9. The Night Manager


It seems a long time has passed since this TV adaptation of John Le Carré’s novel of the same name was on our screens. It provided us with Sunday night viewing that BBC1 hasn’t been able to match since it finished. Since then, the show has aired all over the world I would imagine, and has won numerous Golden Globes. I clearly wasn’t the only one impressed with this one.

8. Silent Witness S19


Seeing as it’s been on our screens since 1996, I don’t think you need me to tell you too much about Silent Witness. Obviously I haven’t been watching since the very beginning (I wasn’t born then), but it is a show I’ve looked forward to seeing every year since I started watching about four or five seasons ago. I have no real explanation for why I enjoy this show so much – there are a number of reasons for why I love it as much as I do, that’s all I can say.

7. Peaky Blinders S3


I got into this show as it started it’s second season and it became a favourite straight away. The excessive violence and creative use of language are always something I enjoy seeing, but there are other things that Peaky Blinders has always had going for it. Firstly, we get to see Cillian Murphy in the lead as the delightful Tommy Shelby, and then we get a whole host of big names alongside him – Tom Hardy and Sam Neill are just a couple. The performances are brilliant, the sets are tremendous, and overall, the show is a winner from start to finish. 

6. The Five 


With a story that came from the mind of acclaimed thriller writer Harlen Coben, The Five sounded promising. This was another mini-series that was very impressive. The story was phenomenal, and I, nor anyone else who watched it with me, had a clue about who did what right until the very end. What more could you want from a crime thriller?

5. The People Vs. O.J. Simpson


I don’t really know what reception this was met with. What I do know is I was really looking forward to seeing it, and when it came to sitting down and watching it, The People Vs. O.J. Simpson went way above my expectations. Some of the performances here – specifically Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clarke, Courtney B. Vance as Johnnie Cochran – were mind-glowingly good. This one didn’t focus so much on the person who may or may not have committed the crime, but more on the drama that unfolded in the courtroom and lawyer’s offices behind the scenes. Compelling stuff!

4. Ray Donovan S4


Another show i got into as the second season began was Ray Donovan, and as I write this I am waiting to find out where season five will pick up. This most recent season of the drama that revolves around the life and work of L.A. fixer, Ray Donovan, was, in my eyes, the best to date. Ray’s work and family life clashed this time round, which raised the stakes massively and made it unbearable waiting for a new episode each week.

3. Ripper Street S4


One of my favourite shows to ever exist is Ripper Street. When BBC cancelled it after season two, I signed every petition going and even wrote a letter to the head of whatever to tell them what a terrible decision they had made, and when it was announced that the show was being decommissioned for seasons three, four and five… well, you can imagine my reaction. Season four was fantastic as always, but dealt us a blow at the end that I’m still not quite over, and I don’t think I ever will be.

2. The Missing S2


The highly anticipated second season of The Missing arrived late in 2016 and was actually far better than it’s predecessor. I hadn’t been that excited for it, but was pleasantly surprised by what was actually presented to me. The story was excellent and with some real British acting heavyweights in two of the lead roles, plus Tchèky Karyo returning as Julien Baptiste, the performances weren’t half bad either.

1. The Night Of


One of the biggest, most talked about shows from last year arrived at some point around September or October I think. The Night Of won me over when I saw the face of The Wire‘s Michael Kenneth Williams in the preview, and I’m glad I saw him then because I may otherwise not have watched the show. A perfect example of what can be achieved with solid storytelling and acting is one of the greatest compliments I could give this show, and with talks of season two starting before it had even finished this one, I am looking forward to it’s return.

So there’s my list of my top ten shows that aired in 2016. Some great newcomers, the return of old favourites and a few pleasant surprises would be a great way to describe last year’s TV for me. How about you? What are your thoughts on these shows? What would have featured on your list? As always, let me know! It’s nice hearing what you guys think.

April Flowers is not quite the pick of the bunch, but still worth seeing


After finding a journal, a young woman embarks on a quest to find it’s owner, but becomes hopeful that she may also find something else along the way.When April (Celina Jade) discovers a lost journal on the subway, she has a flick through the pages in the hope it provides her with some clue as to who the owner is. She gets more than she bargained for, however, as she realises that the owner of the book is a fantastic but perhaps troubled writer. She very quickly becomes obsessed with the book, it’s contents and her visions of the owner, and is intent on returning the journal to the person it belongs to. As the the search unfolds, April continues to build up the fantasy in her head, to an extent that may jeopardise very real relationships that already exist in her own life.

I’m not entirely sure what to make of April Flowers. It certainly isn’t the type of film I would usually go in for, and there were elements of it that I definitely wasn’t a fan of. That being said, however, there were aspects of the film that I thought were interesting and brought up questions about human nature and how we define things in life.

The lead performance here massively helped the film in getting it’s ideas across. Celina Jade portrayed April with an air of uncertainly that I think is within all of us to an extent. She was torn between the relationship she had with Jared, played by Jon Fletcher, and what could have been with the journal’s owner. It was a performance that everyone can relate to in some way or another, and this made it very easy to get on the same level as Jade’s character.

Perhaps my favourite performance in this film came from the actress playing April’s best friend, Laura. She may not have had the largest role in the story, but when she did make an appearance, it flowed very well. She is a very natural actress, and her character had a vital part in providing April with perspective on the situation she found herself in. 

I have to admit that I wasn’t the greatest fan of the style of this film. The narration provided by Helen Stern didn’t feel necessary. This would have been something that worked far better for me had the narration been done by the same person playing the protagonist here i.e. Celina Jade. I just didn’t really know who the narrator was supposed to represent. If it were up to me, I’d have preferred that April narrated her own story as if she were writing in her own journal as it would have fitted in better with the framework of the film.

I mentioned at the beginning that the film raised a number of questions about many things that we’re all quite familiar with. The way it drew attention to the way we view decision-making, especially when it comes to relationships and strong emotions, was something that really resonated with me. We’ve all been in situations where we could go either way and still worry about what the outcome could mean for us, and this film just seemed to capture the difficulties that surround these moments with ease.

All in all, April Flowers was not my type of film, but when I looked at what it was trying to say, I found a lot that I could relate to, which did it a lot of favours. There are performances here by actors who I think show a lot of potential, and the same thing can be said for the film’s writer and director, Christopher Tedrick, as he did such a great job of exploring something that is a complex part of human nature.