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

Man of Steel


Viewed – 18 June 2013  Cinema

Following the huge disappointment of Brian Singer’s Superman Returns, fans and critics alike have been right to think the series was dead in the water, again.  Thankfully, I have been quite optimistic on just how this latest interpretation of one of the most famed superhero characters ever might turn out – mainly because Zack Snyder was directing.  Overseen by producer Christopher Nolan and writer David S Goyer (the team behind the Dark Knight movies) – and with the man who brought Watchmen to the big screen – really, could this fail?

Man-of-Steel

Inspired by the story of Superman: The Movie (1979) and the comics before it we start on the gradually dying planet of Krypton where Jor-El (Russell Crowe) launches his only child into space after General Zod (Michael Shannon) attempts to rage war.  Yet once baby boy Kal-El (superman) is gone, Zod is trialed for treason and sentenced to the phantom zone along with his cronies.  Cut to about 30 years later on earth, and Kal-El is now Clark Kent, raised by Diane Lane and Kevin Costner, but yearns to find out his true origins whilst struggling to hide from the world who he really is.

From the off this is an energetic and confident movie full of spectacle and solid performances, especially from scene-stealing Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire).  Casting here is what impresses most with a surprising but perfect Crowe nailing the part of Jor-El and also an enjoyably feisty (and gorgeous) Amy Adams as Superman’s love-interest Lois Lane.  Snyder’s direction whilst at times lacking in subtlety like a mad professor drunk on his own power (or wealth of effects tools) still delivers probably the best Superman movie we could hope for in this age of anything-is-possible CGI.  The action is loud, brash, mad-as-hell but most importantly FUN, and with an interesting structure (Clark’s childhood / teenage years is shown only in brief flashbacks) and lots of welcome ideas (Clark overwhelmed by his powers, more back story of Krypton) … this fan-boy couldn’t have had a bigger grin on his face.  Of course the big question remains just how good was Henry Cavill as Kal-El / Clark Kent?  Well, if memories of the late (great) Christopher Reeve didn’t even come to mind, then instantly he’s doing something right – he had the charisma, the vulnerability and the looks, so yeah job done – and ladies, prepare to swoon big time!

There you have it … Superman returns – for real this time!

Verdict:  5 /5

Revolutionary Road


Viewed – 07 May 2012  DVD

I am a big fan of Leonardo DiCaprio, with some of my favourite movies having stared this gifted actor.  Now when you think of what leading ladies he has been pared with, you’d be forgiven for immediately coming up with Kate Winslet and their on-screen love affair in James Cameron’s Titanic.  Now for the second time, they are paired again as Frank and April Wheeler, who at first glance seem the perfect suburban couple.  They have the big house, the lovely children, the nice neighbours and the perfect existence.  Yet bubbling under the surface is resentment and despair.  Both yearn for something more, something their relationship isn’t giving them and so decide they are going to give up everything and move to Paris.

Based on the novel by Richard Yates and directed by Sam Mendes, ex-husband of Kate Winslet … this like his earlier American Beauty is again holding a mirror up to the suburban dream (albeit in the 50s), with all the cracks and unhappiness that might lurk in the shadows.  It made me think of David Lynch, how his Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks showed us that not all is perfect in that picket-fence image, and although this movie doesn’t delve into Lynch territory freakiness, it felt similar and in some ways had the same atmosphere of impending doom.  DiCaprio again is solid and believable, at times typical American blue-collar, other times a ticking time bomb.  Winslet whilst equally as good sports a somewhat sketchy American accent that distracted me and her character came across less sympathetic.  Also at times the arguing felt forced and unnatural, almost like they were playing it up to hammer home that this couple don’t get a long – but it wasn’t necessary.

As an exploration of a relationship however, I found this absorbing, helped by good support from the likes of Kathy Bates and Boardwalk Empire’s Michael Shannon, and as a vehicle to reunite Winslet & DiCaprio, this was a good alternative to the ice berg movie.

Verdict:  3.5 /5