The Gift fully delivered


A young married couple have their live’s thrown into disarray when an acquaintance from the husband’s past turns up and reveals a horrific secret about him.
When husband and wife Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) move from Chicago to California, one of the first things they do is head to a home furnishings store. There, they bump into Gordo (Joel Edgerton), a man who seems to Simon, despite Simon not being sure that he’s ever met him before in his life. Through a series of unplanned meetings at their new home, Simon realises that he went to school with Gordo, and that events from their childhood may have had an adverse effect on him. Simon tries to convince Robyn not to worry, however still unnerved, she decides to do some digging of her own. When she finds out what exactly unfolded between the two men years ago, she’s not entirely sure who the bad guy is anymore.

The Gift is one of those films that I had heard a lot of good things about, so was eager to watch it in order to see what all the fuss was about. I have to say, for a film that was shown in trailers to be a bit jumpy, I had half expected it to fall flat, despite the rave reviews. I can happily inform you, however, that it fully delivered on what was promised, with everything culminating in a horrifically twisted ending that will leave you questioning who the real villain was yourself.

I quite enjoyed all the performances here. Jason Bateman, or, as someone kindly pointed out to me via Twitter, Jason Great-man, played a good part as Simon, as did Joel Edgerton as Gordo. I mention them both together because in a way, they took on similar roles. I couldn’t really be sure about either of them for the whole film. I think they complemented each other’s characters really well, and a few of the scenes where the pair sized each other up were majorly intense.

Speaking of intense, something this film was very gifted (you’re welcome) at was building tension. You may or may not be aware by now that I am a jumper, and I will have you know that I watched this film late at night – an excellent combination I later discovered! The mix of the dimly lit shots plus the use of only the film score alongside the overall tone of the film made for a very eerie atmosphere, and just like lighting follows a clap of thunder, this eventually culminated in a jump scare that got me every single time. 

I have to give full credit to Edgerton. Not only did he star in the film as a terrific character, but he also wrote AND directed the whole thing as well. I’ve seen people give themselves this workload before, but usually one part of it is at least slightly below the standard the other two meet. Edgerton, however, handled all three components masterfully here, proving that what I’ve heard from fellow bloggers and human beings is true – he is a very talented man, and one that I shall be keeping an eye on for the foreseeable future.

Overall, I have to say I’d recommend The Gift to people, in fact, I already had before writing this post. For a film that just seemed to pop up out of nowhere, it does alright. One thing it knows how to do is build an atmosphere, whether that be through pitting characters against each other or the use of all resources involved in making the film. It’s a good watch, and one that proved to me that once a jumper, always a jumper.

Drive is a film that fires on all cylinders


A Hollywood stuntman/mechanic with a sideline as a getaway driver for L.A.’s finest criminals finds himself in a spot of trouble when he does a favour for his neighbour.A mystery man (Ryan Gosling) who is a stuntman and mechanic by day, and a getaway driver by night, seemingly looks to get out of the shady life he’s been living when he falls for Irene (Carey Mulligan), whose husband is in prison, and is raising her son alone. Just as it would seem the man is about to get his feet in under the table, Irene’s husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) gets out of prison. However, the driver’s role in their lives is not quite over, as it would seem that Standard got himself into a spot of bother whilst he was in prison, and the people he upset have found their way to him on the outside. When the life of his and Irene’s son is threatened, Standard gets the driver involved in a scheme to get the money he owes to his debtors, but when things take a turn for the worse, the driver is becomes much more deeply involved than he ever usually would intend to get.

One of those films I’ve been meaning to watch for a long time is Drive, and an afternoon catching up with my friend this week just so happened to be the best time to acquaint myself with it. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely! What a film this was – a terrific watch that both me and my best friend thoroughly enjoyed.

Ryan Gosling gives a hugely understated performances as the driver in this film. He was brilliant as the man of few words who was rather talented at getting bad guys out of tight spots. The shortage of dialogue on his part left a lot to be communicated by his body language, and he did so very successfully indeed. One scene in particular at quite a late stage in the film showcased his abilities in this field spectacularly, and made me realise that I should have paid far more attention to Gosling as a serious actor long before now.

What I really loved about this film was how there was such a dramatic change of pace in the second half compared to the beginning, but that’s not to say the first half of the film dragged at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. The start of the film built tension excellently, that culminated in the second part going absolutely mental. I’ve never seen somebody’s head explode in quite the way character’s did, but hey, I guess there’s a first time for everything. The tempo went from 0 to 60 in a heartbeat, changing the tone of the film completely, and keeping you hooked right until the very end.

The film score enhanced the overall atmosphere that came with Drive. As I was watching it, I made sure I paid special attention to the music after what a number of people had told me about it, and I can tell you that everything I was told was true. It really added to the chase scenes, but even in sequences with less action, and those where there were just long shots of the cityscapes, the music had a strong presence, and certainly didn’t go amiss.

On the whole, I can only recommend Drive, and I also have to ask myself why it took me this long to see such a wonderful film. It was exactly my sort of thing and was one of two hugely enjoyable films that made for a great afternoon during the bank holiday just passed.

The heat was turned up in Fortitude season two


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.

A Most Violent Year gave me serious Godfather vibes


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!

Green Room gets the green light


After witnessing a murder at a new-nazi skinhead bar, a punk rock band has to fight for survival.

Pat (Anton Yelchin) takes his punk rock band, The Ain’t Rights, to a night club in a bid to take them one step closer to their big break. They aren’t quite as well received as they had hoped, but their little tour takes a much more grisly turn when they walk back into their dressing room to discover a body with a knife sticking out of it’s head. What follows is a major struggle to escape the clutches of the bar’s owner, Darcy Banker (Patrick Stewart) as he seeks to take out the only witnesses to the brutal murder and eliminate all traces of what happened in the club that night.

Last year, Green Room hit cinemas and was greeted by a lot of very good reviews, so when I got the DVD after Christmas I was very eager to see the film. However, it is only now that I have been able to finally watch it. Was it worth the wait? Yes, but that’s not it say that it didn’t have it’s faults.

As one of those survival-type films, there is of course a real opportunity for some great performances to emerge, but also for some very, very bad ones to rear their heads as well. Thankfully, I did enjoy the key performances here, which makes a change for a film with elements of horror. Anton Yelchin was brilliant to watch, and reminded us of a talent that was lost way too soon, however I think my favourite person in this film has to be Imogen Poots as Amber. She and Yelchin worked really well together, and I thought this showed as their characters came together in order to try and get out alive. What was the best thing about Poots here though was the fact that she was able to play a pretty intelligent character, and this was shown at various points throughout the film.

Now, it probably isn’t worth much coming from me as I am notorious for jumping at everything, but there moments dotted throughout Green Room that made me twitch a bit when they happened. It certainly had a few good thrills laced throughout it’s run, although it took a little longer than I’d have liked for these to start happening.

My biggest gripes about the film focus on things that I felt should have been done, but for some reason were not. One of these things was the use of Patrick Stewart, or lack it, shall we say. I just think he should have been on-screen more than he was considering what a wonderful actor he is. My other main issue was the ending. It just happened. Somebody said something, and then the credits started rolling. It just felt a bit sudden, and I thought it let what had been a pretty solid film down quite a bit.

On the whole, Green Room is a film that is well worth watching. More of a thriller than a horror, it had plenty of moments that certainly made my heart beat a bit faster. It has a few issues, but nothing too major, and a couple of great lead performances make this a good watch, and one that I’m very happy to say I’ve seen, even if we have seen films of a similar nature in the past. 

Primal Fear wasn’t mind-blowing, but it wasn’t frighteningly bad either


When a priest is murdered, one of his altar boys is accused of doing the deed, however the truth of what really happened is quite deeply buried.Hot-shot defence attorney Martin Vail (Richard Gere) takes on the case of poor altar boy Aaron (Edward Norton) who stands accused of murdering a well-respected priest. He offers to fight Aaron’s corner pro bono, convinced that the boy is not guilty of killing the man of the cloth. As he spends time with him, Martin finds more and more material that could help Aaron’s case in court, the most important being that he appears to suffer from some kind of multiple personality disorder, as agreed by psychologist Dr. Molly Arrington (Frances McDormand). This could prove significant in court, where Martin and his client are up against ambitious young prosecutor Janet Venable (Laura Linney), whose history with the defence means she is determined to win the fight. However, one thing remains uncertain right throughout the trial, and that is, what exactly happened in the priest’s apartment, and who did it?

Another film that I have been waiting a while to see is Primal Fear. I had heard mainly good things about it, and after watching it this weekend I can confirm that it is a solid watch, however I had half-suspected the ending. Oh well, at least I can finally cross it off my list now!

I really liked Richard Gere as Martin Vail. What made him such a good character was the fact that, despite being a big time defence lawyer, he wasn’t a really self-conceited, egotistic type of person, which is often what happens with these types of characters. It is later explained to you in the film why he isn’t a complete idiot as well, and he just feels human when you watch him. I can’t help but feel that Gere is slightly type-cast as a rich man with a successful career however, because he played someone of a similar status in Pretty Woman, which happens to be one of the few other films I have seen him in. Nonetheless, I enjoyed watching him, and will happily sit and watch his work in other films in future.

This is the film that made Edward Norton, and it’s not difficult to see why. Much like James McAvoy in Split – another film involving a multiple personality type disorder – Norton owned the role by making the transitions between his two personalities so clear. There was a look in his eye that defined each persona before he spoke, and the vocal characterisations were very strong, really completing the characters. I can safely say that Norton’s early career, to the best of my knowledge, was dominated by some excellent performances.

Many of the performances in the film are very good, however it still remains only a solid watch in my opinion, not an unforgettable one. This is mainly because I had kind of seen the ending coming, so I really wasn’t that surprised when it happened, and for that reason I doubt the film is going to have much of a lasting impact on me.

Overall, while I would recommend Primal Fear, I would warn people to bare in mind that it doesn’t really break any new ground. Perhaps when it was released 21 years ago, things were different, but the film currently doesn’t have the punch I would have liked it to. That being said, it is still a good watch, and I am happy to say that I have finally seen it after waiting for such a long time.

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.