Nocturnal Animals


Viewed – 13 May 2017  online rental

How could I pass up a movie starring two of my favourites?  I tend to enjoy almost anything with Amy Adams or Jake Gyllenhaal and consider them two of the best around right now.  This latest effort has Adams as a high society, somewhat pretentious art gallery owner who when we meet her has just held her latest exhibition (something to do with overly obese women dancing around naked).  One day she receives a manuscript off her ex (Gyllenhaal) who she hadn’t heard off in a while.  Adams is currently in a rather loveless relationship with Armie Hammer (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) but quickly finds her own past with Gyllenhaal echoed in the pages of the violent thriller he’s sent her.

Nocturnal Animals

Director Tom Ford’s highly atmospheric drama has a great noir-ish mood with an eerie style not unlike something by David Lynch or Alfred Hitchcock.  This is aided well by a haunting orchestral score from Abel Korzeniowski.  However the structure … the fact the movie jumps back and forth from Adams’ present circumstances, her past with Gyllenhaal and the story within the manuscript, which plays out like a revenge thriller … is all it’s own and makes this not your average movie.  It’s an intelligent study of a relationship, about regret, revenge and bitterness but done in such a way that I found particularly gripping.

Michael Shannon (Man of Steel, Boardwalk Empire), increasingly an actor I’m impressed with lends the movie a degree of intensity as a character in the manuscript, and Gyllenhaal is again convincing even if we mainly see him in the manuscript setting (I’d have liked a bit more explored of his motives in the real-life segments but that aspect is mostly left to your imagination).  Amy Adams is again very good and particularly nuanced making a generally unlikable character sympathetic as the movie draws to a close.  The point that is reached felt a little ‘…and?’ but that’s small thing for what is otherwise a clever and engrossing experience.

Not for everyone, but I came away rather impressed.

Verdict: 4 /5

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Godzilla


Viewed – 22 May 2014  Cinema

Ah, the blockbuster, that high concept thrill ride usually packed with special effects and not much depth (cough, Michael Bay, cough) but every now and then we get a summer event picture that at least tries to have an engaging story or half decent acting, and this somewhat throwback to 50s b-movies and Japanese sub-culture casts Bryan Cranston, fresh from his iconic turn in the multi-award winning Breaking Bad as a scientist who following a nuclear meltdown at the plant he works at, becomes obsessed with a government cover up in Japan and desperate to find out what really happened.

godzilla-2014

Not hard to guess it’s all really a cover up for the discovery of a very big lizard as well as a bunch of ready to hatch monsters, with the biggest smack-down in history just on the horizon.  This is fun, hokey but very well done entertainment.  Cranston, a very emotional and believable actor is as expected very good here, as is Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass) as Cranston’s soldier / bomb-expert son in a more mature role than I’ve personally seen before.  The story is packed with conspiracy theories, cover ups etc …and I love that sort of thing, and when we finally get some monster action (about an hour or so in) it’s full on, superbly staged and awe-inspiring to the point of actually being quite scary.  The views from the people and soldiers as giant monsters loom overhead, or close by is nerve-shredding – achieving a sense of greatness and magnitude.  Effects are also first rate with the destruction of cities, explosions and just general mayhem all packing a visual and emotional punch. 

Other than it’s b-movie routs however, the movie has little else to say and I felt the first half was stretched out … we’re not here after all to look at readings on a screen and talk about nuclear testing, we want monsters!  But for a blockbuster that does exactly what you might expect, with a decent, if a little under-used cast (Cranston) and some genuinely powerful moments … you still can’t go wrong.  Just don’t expect much else.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Kick-Ass


Viewed – 31 March 2010  Cinema

To say I have been looking forward to this one would be an understatement.  Ever since hype generated from the 2009 comic-con, the teaser trailer, and quite simply, the concept alone – I have been wanting to see this for a long time.  Following the story of nerdy teenager Dave Lizewski who has always had an ambition to be a costumed superhero, one day he finally plucks up the courage to realise his dream and orders a suitably eye-catching costume over the internet.  Of course as you can imagine, the idea of a real teenager becoming a superhero, with no particular powers, just cast-iron balls and a yearning to be noticed (he’s invisible to the opposite sex, it seems) is going to be met with guffaws by anyone who comes into contact with him, as is quickly shown when he tries to take on a couple of petty muggers and comes (very much) worse off.  Yet he is not the only wannabe crime fighter at large, and after becoming an internet sensation he attracts the attention of two real costumed heroes, namely the pint-sized Hit Girl and her mentor Big Daddy, a seriously bad-ass Father and Daughter duo with a grudge against the local mob outfit. 

Matthew Vaughan’s incredibly imaginative movie seems like one of those ideas you can’t believe nobody has done before.  These heroes aren’t in an alternative world, where the villains are caricatures and every scrap ends with a comical one-liner and a cheer from the audience – this is the real world, with real dangers, and these guys are up against it with the possibility of getting themselves easily killed at any moment.  It’s refreshing, and insanely cool, helped immeasurably by a stellar cast including seasoned bad guy Mark Strong and a brilliantly complex Nicholas Cage.  But let’s be honest here, it’s the younger end of the cast that shine the most, with newcomer Aaron Johnson carrying the movie as the gutsy but naive Dave / Kick-Ass with some dead-pan narration along the way.  Also on hand is nerdy favourite Christopher Mintz-Plasse as the mob boss’s under-appreciated son.  Yet all these are completely overshadowed by the wonderful Chloe Moretz as the brilliant Hit-Girl / Mindy, a whirlwind of expletives and violence cooler than a truck load of Neo’s.  She also has a knack of delivering lines that would shock you if you wasn’t laughing so hard.

In addition to the perfect casting, a script that sparkles with brilliant dialogue and some great moments including a superb (if over the top) finally, is a soundtrack of perfectly chosen tunes that enhance every action sequence, which in themselves are choreographed expertly showing that Matthew Vaughan & Co can deliver more than just soppy fantasies (Stardust) and luke-warm mob movies (Layer Cake) to hold their heads high amongst the best of ’em.

An incredibly fun movie and an easy contender for movie of the year.

Verdict:  5 /5