In praise of great TV


Sharp ObjectsI’ve just finished watching the HBO drama ‘Sharp Objects’, and can say with certainty it’s been one of the most riveting dramas I’ve seen in a long time.  With a cast lead by a particular favourite, Amy Adams, who like many Hollywood names these days dips her toe into television and works wonders.  Her acting here, as tabloid journalist Camille who has a complex history that comes flooding back when she is given the assignment to report on a series of murders in the small town where she grew up.  As the show progresses we’re introduced to her rebellious younger sister Emma, and her controlling mother Adora, whilst along the way Camille falls for the local detective heading the case.

The way this show explores not just the case of teenage girls turning up murdered but also that of Camille’s past is done intelligently and artfully to make for a real gem.  The ending holds plenty of twists and surprises and the main revelation is rather disturbing.  Performances are also decent across the board with Adams on solid form and powerfully written, with her actions not always for the belter.  However I’d tip my hat to Patricia Clarkson  as Camille’s mother,who had more than a hint of Piper Laurie about her  It kept me guessing right through to the final moments and left me pondering and a little shaken.  I won’t spoil anything though, just to say if you haven’t seen this series yet … go check it out.

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Justice League


Viewed – 27 March 2018  Blu-ray

After the critically panned yet commercial smash that was Batman V Superman (a movie I stand by as not being as bad as they say), we get this excuse to bring together several notable (and less notable) figures from DC comic’s illustrious history; namely Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), The Flash, Aqua Man and Cyborg, when a centuries old, banished demon returns to claim three powerful cubes that if united will give him the power to conquer worlds.  Yeah, the villain, Steppenwolf is basically Apocalypse from X-Men er…Apocalypse, but minus Oscar Isaac’s charisma, although by no means is he an unappealing adversary.  Then we get the problem that Superman is dead, but there may be hope of resurrecting him if Batman’s plan works out.

Justice League

Some people like to focus on a person’s imperfections.  The same can be said when it comes to movie criticism, and I’ll admit I have been guilty of that in the past.  However I am also a strong believer that some imperfections can be forgiven if they don’t ruin the overall experience.  One such example is the rather luke-warm reception given to this latest entry in DC’s attempt to rival Marvel’s cinematic universe, which for the most part the company has fallen in the shadow of constantly.  Yet having sat through it’s refreshingly lean-2hrs I came away wondering what people had issues with.  The story whilst not anything ground-breaking is perfectly suitable and engaging to bring together these characters, and a witty script handles many egos together on screen particularly well, giving each individual a moment to shine.  I especially enjoyed the slightly out-of-his-depth Flash and I found the otherwise unfamiliar Cyborg intriguing with his semi-Frankenstein’s monster backstory.  Affleck again proves himself a worthy Batman / Bruce Wayne and thankfully Henry Cavill’s Superman gets some great moments also, with his resurrection handled rather well.  Add to this a wonderfully likable (and damn sexy) turn from Gadot’s Wonder Woman and I found myself mostly buzzing from this.

The troubled development with director Zack Snyder having to pass the reigns to Joss Whedon is barely noticeable unless scrutinizing the tone of every scene.  Amy Adams’ Lois Lane is a little side-lined but that’s to be expected with so many characters to focus on, and there’s some questionable CGI / green screen moments.  Oh and that bit with Superman sporting CGI moustache-removal (in one brief scene) is a tad jarring. Also I’d have liked a bit more focus on the villain and just how he seems to psychically know the whereabouts of each ‘hidden’ cube. Thankfully such shortcomings are made up for by plenty of great action, superheroes kicking butt and bags of personality.

So ignore the nay-sayers, ‘cause this one’s definitely worth a watch.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Top Ten 2017


It’s that time of year again and once again I’ve compiled what I feel are the ten best movies I managed to see this year.  Note: some may be older than 2017.

10.

Your Name

your-name

‘A beautifully animated, heart-warming, emotional and funny body-swap drama’

9.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Valerian_

‘Pure escapist entertainment at it’s finest.  Luc Besson is back’

8.

Wonder Woman

Wonder-Woman

‘DC gets it right and one of the most purely enjoyable comic-book movies in years’

7.

War for the Planet of the Apes

War-For-Planet-Of-Apes

‘Full of heart and emotion and spectacle.  The most satisfying rebooted franchise ever’

6.

Annabelle Creation

AnnabelleCreation

‘Atmosphere, well-judged scares and solid performances make for a surprising sequel’

5.

Nocturnal Animals

Nocturnal Animals

‘Cleverly structured and powerful relationship drama with excellent performances’

4.

Gerald’s Game

Geralds_Game

‘A Stephen King adaptation that does a great deal with a very simple premise’

3.

Train to Busan

train-to-busan

‘Korean genre cinema at it’s finest.  Action, thrills and a surprising amount of heart’

2.

Hacksaw Ridge

Hacksaw-Ridge

‘A powerful true story with expert direction and great performances’

1.

Logan

Logan_

‘An incredibly effective take on a familiar character turned into a road movie with powerful performances and genuine grit …  and Hugh Jackman deserves an Oscar’

 

Honourable mentions:  A Street Cat Named Bob, Hell or Highwater, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2

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

Arrival


Viewed – 17 November 2016  Cinema

I went into this in the hope of something a bit different.  The trailer promised a more realistic version of say, Independence Day with less bombastic action and more character and believability.  Well thankfully that’s exactly what I got … and more.

Amy Adams

Amy Adams, easily one of my favourite actresses right now plays a linguistics professor who following the arrival of a series of immense objects at various locations across the globe is called in by the military to help communicate with the ‘aliens’.  The opening scenes of this movie were very well done, memories of a baby, who grows into a little girl, interspersed with the stark reality of the arrival, news footage, global panic and a incredible feeling of dread … gave this a different, more human feel than what I’d normally expect from such material.  It clearly was focusing of Amy Adam’s character and how her experiences might guide her through a very challenging and uncomfortable experience.  Jeremy Renner, another favourite plays a scientist on hand to assist Adam and help her figure out a strange language.  Now I’ll admit I was never fully on board with how they start communicating and translating what is basically a series of circular shapes, but well … Hollywood.  Yet the performances here, suitably ominous direction and some clever-ass writing made this a great deal more than I was anticipating.  The first half of the movie is a tad slow and I was thinking this was getting a bit boring … but then a twist changes all of that and made me re-think much of what I’d seen and well, brought in comparisons to Interstellar … which is all I’ll say on that.

For an intelligent, at times poetic alien invasion movie, and with strong performances across the board with only the translation thing my only nit-pic then I’d say check this one out.

Verdict:  4 /5