Review: Nocturnal Animals (2016)

“Do you ever feel like your life has turned into something you never intended?”
– Susan Morrow

SYNOPSIS: A wealthy art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a symbolic revenge tale. – via IMDB

Ah, Nocturnal Animals. Where do I even begin? I had forgotten about this completely, except Natasha wanted to check it out, and so we did. Goddammit, so we did. Two hours folks. Two. Nocturnal Animals is a pretentious pile of garbage that actually has some semblance of potential which is unceremoniously pissed away. The opening alone was just grotesque and came across as pretentious, right out of the gate. To shock, to inspire, to make you think that the movie has more depth than what appears on the surface? Screw that. It did not. Revenge tale, and that is that. Not even a good one, while we are at it, despite what it would have you think.

This also seemed like something I would like – dark and a thriller, plus Gyllenhaal? Ticked all the boxes. In fact, I liked the cast for the most part. The film is divided into three segments: the past, the present, the story in a novel. Three. Of these three, the novel coming to life is a fantastic revenge tale, a mysterious story that gets you worried and draws you in, and you feel for the main character of it, and are intrigued by his plight and the relationship he forms with the detective investigating the crime which the main character is a victim of. Awesome. But then there are the other two parts of the movie – the past and the present, and they are both boring and bland and just annoyed me.

My reception of the movie was not helped along by Amy Adams, whom I cannot stand. Her character was such a waste of space. Armie Hammer, too, felt like he was useless here – the script was so skinny. He was pretty much there for some aloof eye candy, and that is that. Gyllenhaal and Shannon are the stars of this, without a doubt. Aaron Taylor-Johnson, too, shone here. Every moment they were on screen, you were engaged. They were so good. A whole movie just about them and their segment would have been fantastic. Instead I had to sit through all that drivel and possibly one of the worst endings I have seen in my life.

I see this movie being lauded as dark, thought-provoking, deep. Pretentious, I will say it again. The movie is not as deep as it wishes to be, and because of that comes across as desperate. While we are at it, it is generic and brings nothing new to the table. I cannot in good conscience recommend this to anyone, though I am aware my opinion is in the minority.

Review: Arrival (2016)

“There are days that define your story beyond your life. Like the day they arrived.”
– Dr Louise Banks

SYNOPSIS: When twelve mysterious spacecraft appear around the world, linguistics professor Louise Banks is tasked with interpreting the language of the apparent alien visitors. – via IMDB

I saw a trailer for this a while ago and thought it looked interesting. I was infinitely more curious when I saw Denis Villeneuve’s name attached to the project as I rather like his work. Arrival did not disappoint at all, and was definitely one of the better alien movies I have seen in a while, and I am a sucker for them. It definitely got right what most alien movies don’t – the movie maintained an air of mystery, it was smart, while the aliens were super important, we didn’t get to see too much of them (I mean this visually, not that they were not present), but what we did see of them was icky man.

Despite having Amy Adams helm the film (which for me could potentially have held it back, she is one of those actresses that irrationally annoys the shit out of me), it worked out just fine. In fact, I think Adams did a good job with the material she was given. I also enjoyed Jeremy Renner in this, and liked the interactions between Ian and Louise. I was glad that Villeneuve did not force a love story into the middle of this, as a romance was totally secondary to all that was going on.

I really liked how the film took time to set itself up. It was never rushed, or too slow and dull. The story was also very engaging. It took its time to set up a solid movie, which was also directed perfectly and visually appealing, well acted, and had a brilliant score to accompany it. There was just so much to enjoy here. As I mentioned before, I was pleased that we didn’t see too much of the aliens, as it maintained mystery and kept them super creepy. I appreciate how smart Arrival is, too, because I love a movie that makes me think.

Arrival is an impressive alien/sci-fi film, and definitely impressed me. I can highly recommend it. Sharp, shot beautifully and carried by strong performances, this movie will make you think on things for quite some time, and I like that.

You can totally skip the trailer and just go straight on to the movie.

Review: Man of Steel (2013)

MAN OF STEEL POSTER

“I have journeyed across an ocean of stars to reach here. Your world has sheltered one of my citizens. He will look like you, but he is not one of you.”
– General Zod

The planet Krypton is falling apart, its inhabitants having exhausted its core and killing it all off. Scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and his wife, Lara (Ayelet Zurer) have birthed the first natural birth the planet has seen in centuries. Kal-El is seen as the planet’s hope, and Jor-El is intent on convincing the Kryptonian council that the codex need to be sent out to preserve the Kryptonian race. However, General Zod (Michael Shannon) has staged a coup to extinguish all the bloodlines he feels are responsible for their planet’s demise. His faithful followers are caught and sentenced, though Jor-El has fallen, and Kal-El has been sent to Earth with the codex.

MAN OF STEEL GENERAL ZOD
“No matter how violent, every action I take is for the greater good of my people.” – General Zod

Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) is a young man running from his destiny – from his life. He has spent his entire life hiding who he is at the behest of his father, Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner), not believing that the world is ready from him. He and Martha (Diane Lane) found Clark as a baby and adopted him. Jonathan taught Clark how to control his superhuman powers he has gained on Earth, and tells him where he is really from. Clark’s insistence on helping people with his powers has caused that he needs to run – people cannot know who he is. While on the run, reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) discovers Clark, who is on a mission to find out more about his people and where he is truly from. Clark meets his biological father, Jor-El, and learns of Krypton’s destruction and how he is the last hope. Lois is intent on spreading the story on alien life after Clark saves her life, but her boss and editor at the Daily Planet, Perry White (Laurence Fishburn), refuses to publish it. Lois will not let it go but changes her mind after tracking Martha and Clark down, and hearing the reason for his secrecy.

MAN OF STEEL SUPERMAN
Discovering the truth about your origins can be empowering

However, Zod and his followers have escaped the Phantom Zone, and track Clark down on Earth. They inform Earth that they are housing a fugitive, and insist that they turn him over or their planet will be eradicated. Clark is torn between turning himself in (knowing that he cannot trust Zod) and trusting the humans on Earth to do the right thing. Clark chooses to trust the people, and hands himself over to the United States military. They are both threatened and in awe of the powerful being. Zod’s second in command, Faora-Ul (Antje Traue), takes Lois as well as Clark to her general. Zod insists that Clark join them, and when Clark turns him down he is agitated. All hell breaks loose.

MAN OF STEEL
“My father believed that if the world found out who I really was, they’d reject me… out of fear.” – Clark Kent

Will Clark be able to neutralize General Zod and protect the inhabitants or Earth? Though he knows nothing of the codex, will he be able to keep it from the superhuman beings and maintain his identity? Will he be able to fight off the last remaining members of his extinct race?

MAN OF STEEL

Man of Steel merits a 7/10. I thought about this for a while, but I think that the score is fair and deserving. Yep, I know I am late to the Superman party, but we got it late. Michael Shannon was an absolute joy to watch as the hardcore General Zod, and the Kryptonians had such phenomenal costumes. They just looked brutal. The opening sequence of Krypton and its demise was so well rendered, and it was breathtaking to watch. Russell Crowe was a great good Jor-EL, and Kevin Costner impressed me as Jonathan Kent. Diane Lane was also lovely as his mother. Hans Zimmer again delivered a stunning score, and Man of Steel was visually stunning to look at, though I see why people say that there was an overload of CGI. The destruction was just a tiny bit much for me, but in a way I guess foreign life coming to Earth did not mean they were going to give a toot about damage totals. Henry Cavill is simply a great Clark Kent and Superman, so kudos for that. He was really compelling to watch, charming and the complete embodiment of what Clark Kent should be. I do feel though that there were so many intense action scenes to mask that there was not as deep and in depth a story as you would expect, but the action and fighting keeps you from getting too close to that. The revamping of the Superman outfit was truly fantastical, and long overdue. That cape just thrilled me (yes, again me and the cape). The kids that were chosen to play Clark over the years were so cool as they really looked like they could have been Cavill at a younger age. Amy Adams was well cast, but sometimes I think she is too cute for the role of someone so gritty, though she made it work here. What I appreciated about this film was that it had a darker tone, though there was still some humour. I like some humour in this type of thing, but I feel it is far better with a bit more brooding, which they nailed here. It gives it a sense of realism, not total cheese. Overall, one of the best DC comic book films in many years, and it was epic, though not as wonderful and wow as I would have hoped – I was holding out for my new Dark Knight. Christopher Nolan set a whole new bar for the genre with his Dark Knight trilogy.

Review: Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Catch Me If You Can Wallpaper

“I’m not a doctor. I never went to medical school. I’m not a lawyer, or a Harvard graduate, or a Lutheran.”
– Frank Abagnale Jr.

Yesterday I watched Catch Me If You Can again, and realized why I love it so much. It has been years since I watched it, and I have been particularly nostalgic over the last few weeks. Naturally, this movie would feature.

The story is that of Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio). His father, Frank Abagnale Sr. (Christopher Walken) is a well meaning man but a small time con artist. Frank’s parents, Frank Sr. and Paula Abagnale (Nathalie Baye) get divorced after the family loses everything. Put on the spot to choose which parent to live with, Frank Jr. runs, and begins his life as one of the world’s greatest con artists at the tender age of sixteen.

Frank Abagnale Jr Pilot
Women can be so distracting!

After roughing it and sweet talking to no avail, Frank gets an idea, and researches in depth. It all begins with the Pan Am airways, and Frank markets himself as young co-pilot Frank Taylor, and banks thousands of dollars worth of cheques. Later, he moves on to becoming a doctor by total random decision when FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks) starts closing in on him. Dr. Frank “Conners” then meets the love of his life there, nurse Brenda Strong (Amy Adams). Frank asks her father, Roger Strong (Martin Sheen) for her hand in marriage, and then spins the story of practicing law, and having studied before. Frank becomes a licensed legal prosecutor, and just as he studied to be a doctor, meticulously watches tapes to mimic the profession.

02
I concur.

However, the net is drawing in tightly around Frank, and Carl Hanratty is intent on catching  a man who has turned out to be nothing but a nuisance and an embarrassment to him from the off. Carl becomes obsessed with Frank, and together they play a cat-mouse game that lasts years, neither willing to back down or call a truce, and neither willing to let the other go.

Catch Me If You Can scores an 8/10. I really thoroughly enjoyed every second of this film. The deception was great, Leonardo DiCaprio really did a phenomenal job of portraying Frank Abagnale Jr. and as always, watching Tom Hanks was a pleasure, he had the role of Agent Carl Hanratty down pat. I think that Steven Spielberg rocked this film, and this is a proper classic. The humour was abundant, and I was laughing solidly the whole way, and the balance between drama and humour was simply perfect and flowed very well. The cast gelled together nicely, and the dynamic was very pleasant indeed. Well worth the watch if you have not seen it before, and definitely worth a re-watch even if you have!