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 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. 

I’m already betting Split will be one of my top films of 2017

A man with 23 distinct personalities kidnaps three girls in the hope that they will enable him to unlock his true potential and access an altogether more powerful 24th identity.For her birthday, Claire Benoit (Haley Lu Richardson) has a party that she invites all of her classmates to. This group includes class outsider Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy), who ends up needing a ride home with Claire and her friend, Marcia (Jessica Sula). The three girls encounter trouble before they’ve even left the car park – a strange man (James McAvoy) climbs in their car and the next thing they know is they are waking up in a basement somewhere unknown to them. It later becomes clear that this man has a number of different personalities, and all the ones that they are exposed to hint that there is some sort of agenda that they are needed for. The girls frantically try to figure a way out of the situation they have found themselves in, but get separated when they offend their host(s). Before long, it is up to Casey to try to get all three girls out alive as she is the only one who can seem to get through to the man through one of his alter egos. Meanwhile, the man makes frequent visits to his psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley) as Barry, another, more level-headed personality than those seen by the girls. She knows something is up, but by the time she learns enough about the 24th personality known as The Beast, it is too little too late. 

Ah, where to begin? Split. The return of M. Night Shyamalan. It’s all such a blur to me after seeing the film a couple of hours ago. I had been so excited for this one. My friend sent me a link to the teaser trailer months ago, and we decided there and then that we would make it our first mission in 2017 to see this film. Well… now the mission is complete, and I am lost for words – a slight problem considering I now have to review the film. I guess you could say I was absolutely blown away by it. I had had high expectations going into the film, and was seriously worried that it could be one of the biggest flops of the year. As it turns out, it topped my expectations quite magnificently – I am so glad it didn’t turn out to be a waste of time!

You know the drill by now, I always start with performances, so let’s talk a little bit about a certain James McAvoy who reached new acting heights here. In the film, we see him as mainly five different characters. You’d think this would become confusing, am I right? Nope. Not in the slightest. The transitions between characters were so clear and so fluid, often taking place on a line by line basis. McAvoy didn’t even have to speak for you to be able to distinguish between any two personalities. He embodied each one completely and was so mesmerising to see in every minute of the film. My favourite of the personalities he portrayed was nine-year-old Hedwig. He was just so funny, and had the ability to flip the tone of the film on it’s head for a minute with some of the things he said. This was something that provided a nice little aside during the course of things, but also emphasised the darkness of the other alter egos that McAvoy showed us.

Newcomer Anya Taylor-Joy was equally as wonderful to watch, even if she didn’t quite take on the same challenging workload that McAvoy might have done. She gave Casey such a great amount of authenticity I thought, plus showed that while a young woman might be scared, not every single one of her brain cells has to completely evaporate. I really liked her character and her performance, and genuinely look forward to seeing more of her in the near future.

I think that’s the easiest part out of the way. Now what? There are so many things about this film that I loved that I don’t think I could cover them all and not have you age a few years before you’ve finished reading. Split is 100% not the film the trailers make it out to be. It is a dark, brooding thriller that builds up to an absolutely stonking finale with a twist that, even with a telescope, I wouldn’t have seen coming. The ending is definitely what elevated the film to greatness for me – I just didn’t see it coming, but fully understood what had happened after it had been and gone. It didn’t feel pretentious at all, and I think that’s what swayed it for me.

So, that should do it I’d say. Split is a film that I would recommend more than most, especially if you are someone who has seen a number of Shyamalan’s films as this will be something that makes this one so great for you. I don’t feel like there’s much more I can say without A) taking up anymore of your time than I already have, or B) ruin the film for you, as it is one of those that I can now safely say the less you know, the better it will be for you.

Rillington Place – If these walls could talk…

A three-part story about infamous serial killer John Christie and the murders that took happened at 10 Rillington Place during the 1940s and early 1950s.

Quite who Reg Christie (Tim Roth) is is something that is hard the ascertain. The man has a checkered history, evident in the strain in his relationship with wife of fifteen years Ethel (Samantha Morton). After he finishes a spell in prison, they move to Rillington Place – the place where many sinister goings on are to take place over the coming years.

When I saw BBC’s preview for Rillington Place, I was aware that there was a man who looked a lot like Tim Roth in the lead role. As it turned out, I was right with my guess at who the actor was, and when this was confirmed I knew straightaway that I would be watching this three-part drama after being very impressed by his work in Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. It turns out that he impressed me yet again with his work here, so I was glad I took a gamble on this period-set mini-series.

Roth, as you know by what I’ve already said, was tremendous as Reg, and I’d probably say that this was the best performance I’ve seen by him. He had a presence on-screen that made you feel uneasy just watching him walk into a room. When it came to his character’s speech, Roth has said that he went for an Alan Bennett-esque dialect, which I have to say was very effective in making the character complete. There was something very chilling about the way he spoke, and how calm he remained in every situation. He absolutely nailed the character if you ask me, and delivered a masterclass in acting with every minute of this drama.

Samantha Morton was equally as good as Ethel. It was hard to know which side she was on throughout the whole thing, which I think showed very well how torn her character was. What I really liked about Ethel though was the hidden power she possessed. She was the only character in the story who could make Reg lose it, and we saw this a couple of times. Morton did a terrific job of showing the most important aspect of Ethel, which was that she was essentially an abused wife, and although this was apparent from the beginning, it became much clearer as the story played out.

The storyline for Rillington Place was a retelling of the events that played out there in the 40s and 50s. What I had expected of the show was quite different to what I got – I thought I would have seen far more of the murders happen, but as it was, this was not the case. Was I disappointed by this fact? Not really. The performances more than made up for the lack of action that took place on-screen which I think is one of the biggest complements they each could get.

On the whole, Rillington Place is a short drama full of top-drawer performances. The cast provide plenty for you to be entertained with, and the dark subject matter of this show makes it the kind of period drama that I think those of us who prefer not to look back on the olden days through rose-tinted specs can fully appreciate. If you like Ripper Street, as I am also a huge fan of, then Rillington Place will definitely be right up your alley. 

The closer you look at Nightcrawler, the better it gets

A man desperate for work muscles his way into the world of L.A. crime journalism but the lines between bystander and participant when he delves deeper into the possibilities of his new career.Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a small time their and big time hustler. He lives a relatively low profile existence and desperately needs work. After a night of unsuccessful job hunting, Lou makes his way home but comes across a road accident on the way. He notices a camera crew filming and makes an instant, perhaps slightly subconscious decision that that is the job for him. He kits himself out with a camera and police transponder, hires an intern, then starts filming the latest and greatest crime stories taking place in L.A. and sells them to a news station. Before long, however, Lou’s morals become more questionable than they were before, and he very quickly starts to get way too involved in the stories he is filming.

For a very long time now I have been threatening to review Nightcrawler, but in all the time I’ve had the DVD, I just never got round to writing up about it. Well, me and my best friend watched it the other day and so I’ve finally decided that now is the time to review this very interesting film.

The main attraction here is the lead performance. Jake Gyllenhaal is absolutely tremendous as Lou Bloom, providing what is definitely one of the best performances of his career. He put so much effort into developing his character and all his work certainly paid off if you ask me. He made Lou a real oddball to the extent that at some points during the film, he was somewhat uncomfortable to watch. Despite this, he is a Gyllenhaal character that I love, and one that has made me worry slightly about myself. We all know that I have a fondness of Gyllenhaal, and it was after seeing him here that hat fondness developed. He is a magnificent actor, and one who is not too hard to look at either.

Nightcrawler introduced us to Riz Ahmed whom we all perhaps now know best as Naz Khan in The Night Of. His character, Rick, was something like the complete opposite of Lou – very unsure of himself, not at all impulsive, basically everything Lou wasn’t. He was a good balancer in the film, and he emphasised Lou’s eccentricities well.

The film doesn’t follow a storyline as such, but follows the main character on his descent into what is essentially madness instead. It also explores an idea that I for one haven’t seen before. The stories of these so-called ‘nightcrawlers’ is not something that I have ever really given much thought to, but I am so glad writer and director Dan Gilroy did. Sadly though, it would appear that some organisations didn’t pay this film the same attention as I, along with many others, did, as it missed out on an awful lot during that year’s awards season.

On the whole, I 100% recommend that you see Nightcrawler. It takes a look at life through the eyes of someone who is a product of the time he was raised within. I suppose in a way you could look upon this film as a modern day version of Taxi Driver – it has the same fantastically unnerving lead performance and great writing, but applies elements of what is slightly more in line with what is going on today.

The Missing’s second season is worth catching 

A young girl returns home to her parents after being taken years before, but there is something not quite right about her.On her way home from school one day, Alice Webster (Abigail Hardingham) was taken. Now, eleven years later, a mysterious twenty-something woman shows up in a German hospital and she is presumed to be the Alice Webster that disappeared all those years before. Her parents are thrilled to have her back, as are the authorities who believe she may have knowledge of where another girl, Sophie Giroud, is, who went missing around the same time. The man who investigated Sophie’s disappearance, Julien Baptiste (TchĂ©ky Karyo) is still determined to find the other girl, and after talking to Alice, he senses something is wrong. Flicking backwards and forwards between three time periods, the story unfolds and all the questions that arose when Alice returned home gradually begin to be answered, one by one.

No less than two years after the first season of The Missing aired, Harry and Jack Williams returned with another story. I have to commend them on their work here – while I do think the eight episode run could have been condensed down to six, I have to say that is was far superior to season one.

The only cast member to return from that first season was TchĂ©ky Karyo, who played the brilliant detective, Julien Baptiste. He was, again, wonderful as his character pursued the truth behind the case that had thrown up so many problems for so long. There were so many challenges that bombarded Baptiste this time around, both personally and professionally, and I really liked the element of uncertainty that featured within Karyo’s performance this time around.

Keeley Hawes is probably one of the best British TV actresses right now. I’ve recently enjoyed her work in Line Of Duty so had an idea of what to expect from her here. As Gemma, Alice Webster’s mother, she gave a very moving performance. Hawes’ character had her life collapse around her mostly after the return of her daughter, and by the end of the series, it continued to be pretty rough. I love the characters Hawes plays and really hope that she continues to gift us with performances such as those I have seen so far in the future. 

I stated at the beginning that I enjoyed this season far more than I did the first. Like I said, there were times I thought the story could have been compacted down to just six episodes, but despite this, it did seem to move along a lot quicker than it’s predecessor. The other huge plus point was the terrifically sensible ending this plot had. ALL THE LOOSE ENDS WERE TIED UP! I HAVE CLOSURE! Do you have any idea what this means to me? It means that I am actually looking forward to this series returning for season three at some point. The Williams brothers were spot on this time, and did a little bit to restore some of my faith in the BBC.

All in all, I would recommend season two of The Missing. It is a tense story with some brilliant performances. For anyone who has a penchant for dark, twisting dramas, I would say give this a spin, but be sure to start with season two. You won’t miss out on anything by not seeing the pilot as this is more of an anthology-style series, so if ever there was an excuse to not start at the beginning, this is it.

Con Air is a real thrill-ride from start to finish

A freshly paroled former US Ranger finds himself trapped on-board a prison airplane that gets hijacked by the criminals it is carrying.

After a drunken brawl leaves a man dead, ex-US Ranger Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) is charged with manslaughter and is sent to jail three months before his daughter is born. Years later, he is eligible for parole and it finally looks like he’ll get to meet his little girl in person. His ride home is a prison plane that transfers convicts between prisons in different states, and unfortunately for Cameron, he boards the plane that happens to get hijacked by the criminally insane but highly intelligent Cyrus ‘The Virus’ Grissom (John Malkovich) and a few other cons who contributed to the plan. With the authorities remaining one step behind the convicts for quite some time, it is up to Cameron to make sure that his reunion with his family doesn’t have to wait any longer than it already has, while doing everything he can to help those who also hadn’t planned on their trip panning out this way either.

I first watched Con Air a couple of years ago, and I have to say I enjoyed it just as much now as I did then, although it has to be said that it is little more than Die Hard on a plane – Nicolas Cage even has the matching vest! While it may not be the most earth-shattering film ever to be made, nor the best film of either of the three main actor’s careers, it certainly has it’s plus points that make it a fun watch.

This film contains perhaps one of the best, and definitely the most quoted Nicolas Cage line of all time. I can’t imagine anyone else saying ‘Put the bunny back in the box,’ quite like he did. This is one of my favourite roles of his and I think quite a few people feel the same way. Cage channelled his inner John McClane as Cameron, and no matter how many times I found his dialect borderline ridiculous, I couldn’t help but find myself rooting for him to ground that plane and get himself home.

John Malkovich is the main reason I rewatched this film recently. He certainly is an actor who has shown us how wide his range of abilities truly is. As Cyrus ‘The Virus’, he took on the role of the ultimate menace to society, and I have to say that he was a very good villain. If you don’t know by now, I am someone who really enjoys seeing an intelligent person doing bad things on-screen (and I don’t mean good actors starring in bad films when I say that). Criminal masterminds are up there with some of my favourite movie villains, and I thought Malkovich and Cage both complimented each other quite well with their approaches to their characters, which is maybe why Con Air works as well as it should for me.

As I’ve said, the plot for this film could be mistaken for being the instalment of the Die Hard franchise that took place on a plane that they couldn’t get Bruce Willis to sign on for. However, I wouldn’t say I’m a film snob and so I love a run-of-the-mill action flick as much as anyone else. It’s quite easy-going and doesn’t require too much brainpower, so while it may be quite conventional as far as action thrillers go, it provides a couple of hours’ worth of fun explosions and decent characters that make it worth your time.

On the whole, I would say that Con Air certainly isn’t ground-breaking, but is worth seeing if you’re a fan of anyone in it, or if you just have nothing else to do. There’s plenty of action, some big explosions, a few laughs (not entirely sure if all are intentional) and a little bit of the lovey-dovey stuff for the hopeless romantic in all of us. It’s a solid film that I would say everyone should check out at some point.