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.

Rapid Review: Midnight Special (2016)

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“Sometimes we are asked to do things that are beyond us.”
– Doak

SYNOPSIS: A father and son go on the run, pursued by the government and a cult drawn to the child’s special powers. – via IMDB

midnight-special

GRADE 6.5Alright, so obviously this movie got a lot of hype. I have seen both other hyped films of Nichols (Take Shelter and Mud) and I was rather underwhelmed by both. Not because they are bad, but because they weren’t as good (for me) as they were for others. I didn’t think I was going to love this movie, and thought I would feel pretty similar to his others. I was right. It was okay, but totally overhyped. I liked the way they looked at a cult (not as in depth as I would have hoped, but I always find it fascinating). I thought that the reveals and the explanations were very slow, if ever they did make an appearance, which was rather annoying. Not because I need to be spoon fed a movie, but this was just a mess and all over the show. I also have major complaints about how dark the movie was at times. And no, I don’t mean content, I really mean the lighting. I hate not being able to see chunks of a film because of that. I thought that Joel Edgerton and Michael Shannon were, as to be expected, extremely good and the movie is well worth the watch for them alone. They really carried the whole film for me. I feel that the characters were flat and there was no character development in the movie, which did frustrate me quite a bit, too. It felt a bit hollow. The movie did look really good though, I have to say. Every time I hear about this movie, I think about the Creedence Clearwater Revival song. So does my husband, so I am not alone. Midnight Special is not a bad movie, and I know a hell of a lot of people that enjoyed it immensely, but I was not one of them. I thought it was alright, but not something I will be rewatching anytime soon.

Rapid Review: Revolutionary Road (2008)

revolutionary road poster

“Look at us. We’re just like everyone else. We’ve bought into the same, ridiculous delusion.”
– April Wheeler

SYNOPSIS: Frank and April Wheeler always see themselves as far-removed from the conventionality of suburbia. Yet that is exactly what creeps up on them when they buy a house in Connecticut. He toils 10 hours a day in a job he hates, while she, as a 1950s homemaker, yearns for fulfillment and passion. Rebelling against the torpor of their lives, the couple plan an escape that may push them to their limits. – via Google

REVOLUTIONARY ROAD DANCEREVOLUTIONARY ROAD WE WILL BE OKAY

GRADE 7.5I really enjoyed Revolutionary Road. I suppose true love is not quite as the couple would have imagined after surviving the Titanic and all that. Alright, I am kidding. It started off very sweet, and the couple that was adorable married and had their perfect little life, but soon the cracks and splinters in their relationship were visible. Do not be mistaken, this is not your average romantic film, overly predictable and soppy as sin (I really cannot stand those to begin with), but this one was different. It approached the whole thing in another light. It was sweet to see the Wheelers try so hard to get things together and get them right to live their lives to the fullest, but the longer you watch, the more cracked April seems. Yep, I mean it. The longer I watched, the more I was like damn, this woman is losing the plot and hiding all her decisions and justifications behind her husband, and then when realism sets in, he is the awful one. As a couple they also have to fill out the role of parents and look after their children, and the whole affair becomes a painful and tangled mess. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, it was a good drama and well-constructed, with a deeper looked into marriage, expectations, and then the reality of everything. DiCaprio absolutely shone in this movie (as if I would think anything else – but seriously, he was just excellent), and between him and Michael Shannon they really carried the film for me. Kate Winslet and Kathy Bates were also worth checking out, as always. Winslet was particularly well cast to play April, and her and DiCaprio manage to work very well alongside on another. Michael Shannon was a massive draw, and he played his role incredibly well here. He was brutally honest and didn’t really have a social buffer, but he was the one that told things like he saw them, and they were invariably correct. He had a strong character, and is definitely worth looking into. I know that not everyone is going to love this film, but I thought it to be solid, well put together and littered with great performances.

Review: The Iceman (2012)

the iceman poster

Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) meets and marries the woman of his dreams, Deborah Pellicotti (Winona Ryder). Kuklinski claims to have worked for Disney, though it comes out much later that he was actually in the porn business. One night the tapes are not ready, and Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta) and his crew comes calling. Kuklinski promises to have the tapes ready, and goes for a meeting with Demeo the next day where Demeo asks him to come and work for him after shutting down the porn business. He feels that Kuklinski is cold and efficient, and asks him to murder a homeless man as proof. Kuklinski does as he is told, and Demeo keeps the gun as evidence.

the iceman getting into business

Kuklinski now works exclusively for Demeo, and is not to take jobs on the side. Kuklinski is happy with the arrangement, and becomes a renowned and respected assassin in his field. Kuklinksi and Deborah now have two children together, Betsy and Anabel (McKaley Miller). Kuklinksi gives his wife everything she has ever wanted and his daughters are in private Catholic school. Life seems to be going well for Kuklinski. However, trouble breeds on the horizon when Demeo has problems with one of his guys and when Kuklinski refuses to kill a seventeen-year-old girl at one of his jobs. Robert “Mr Freezy” Pronge (Chris Evans) tells Demeo that he had to sort out the girl, and ultimately the mob politics lead to Kuklinski becoming unemployed. He is not allowed to take jobs on the side but desperate to stay in the game, he is good at what he does.

the iceman stiarcase
“You see the Iceman crying?” – Richard Kuklinski

Kuklinksi becomes bitter and increasingly angry, scaring his wife and children. He needs to get back into the game or he will lose his mind. He visits his brother who makes the ominous prediction that Kuklinski will end up in prison just like him, with his family writing him off completely. Kuklinski still works very hard to keep his personal and his professional life separate, but since being laid off caution is thrown in the wind. He notices the need to get back to work in fear of scaring his family off, which means the world to him. Striking a deal with Mr Freezy, Kuklinski is now the assassin behind the veil, the person no one knows about. Freezy pulls the jobs, Kuklinski executes the targets, and they both get paid. Together they will then cut up the victim and freeze them, making it impossible for authorities to determine time of death.  It goes without say that Demeo cannot know that Kuklinski is working with Mr Freezy. Slowly but surely though people start talking, and Demeo starts asking questions, and just like that Kuklinski’s perfectly created façade starts to crack, and he works hard to pull it all together again and remain in control.

the iceman kuklinski at work
“I only feel alone around other people. Couldn’t be truer.” – Mr Freezy

Will Demeo figure out that Kuklinski is working with Mr Freezy, despite his strict ban on working with others? Will Kuklinski be able to keep his family life and business life separated, as much as he wants to? Will his wife and children remain clueless as to his daily activities? Will his past deeds eventually catch up to him?

GRADE 6.5Michael Shannon was completely amazing to watch, and is probably what saved this movie in the long run. Not that it was bad; there were just a few issues with it. I also enjoyed Chris Evans, his character gave me a bit of a sadistic giggle, though there is really nothing that should actually be amusing in here, you can’t help but find the moments where it happens. Michael Shannon played the family man role down pat, and got the icy and sinister side of his character down too. Ray Liotta was decent for what he did, but there were moments where it simply just didn’t work. The style that the film was shot in was good for what it portrayed. The plot was laid out just fine, and it was not an issue following what happened. However, I really feel that more effort could have gone into wrapping the film up at the end; it left a lot to be desired. It just felt like a bit of a missed opportunity for me, which was really a pity seeing as the cast was fine, and the story was interesting.

Review: Mud (2012)

mud poster

“There are fierce powers at work in the world, boys. Good, evil, poor luck, best luck. As men, we’ve got to take advantage where we can.”
– Mud

SYNOPSIS: Two young boys encounter a fugitive and form a pact to help him evade the vigilantes that are on his trail and to reunite him with his true love. – via IMDB

mud

GRADE 7The movie was pretty good, and I liked how the story came together and was presented, though at times I thought that it was massively underplayed and sometimes far too slow on the presentation of events. There are also a few things that are just left open and unexplained, so there is an air of confusion to it. I do like the drama aspect, as it was executed very well. Ellis’s family problems and the effects thereof could visibly be seen in his actions, and it is easy to see how Mud could have gotten him to do anything (not necessarily knowing what he was up to, that is). That Neckbone eventually relents and joins Ellis on the journey is well done, too. McConaughey delivers a great performance as Mud, and it is easy to see how two young boys would be drawn into his terrible mishap. Michael Shannon’s role was so minor, and it was a pity that he was not utelised more, he is a very good actor that can carry a story. I really feel for Ellis, being at that point in life where you are not yet an adult though you are no longer one hundred percent a child anymore. Ellis hits his pubescent age and has a bad time – his parents are getting a divorce, he is supposed to be moving to town and his life as he knows it is coming to a close. He throws himself into helping Mud in a way to look for answers to himself, to prove that not everything is broken with the world. I enjoyed how a lot of the movie was spoken, so it was more down to characters and their actions as opposed to big action scenes and losing everything to CGI and massive effects.  The film does keep you engaged. Maybe I just like a drama like that, but it was lovely how it was put together, how the boys were adventurers, how Neckbone eventually got on board with the whole Mud thing, as well as Mud’s whole story. The boys were prepared to help him and while they were at it they learned a lot of new things about people as well as some things about themselves. I enjoyed this, though I do not think that it was that fantastic as people made out, though do not mistake that for me saying it was bad or substandard, I really did enjoy it.

Review: Take Shelter (2011)

take shelter movie poster

“You think I’m crazy? Well, listen up, there’s a storm coming like nothing you’ve ever seen, and not a one of you is prepared for it.
Curtis LaForche

SYNOPSIS: Plagued by a series of apocalyptic visions, a young husband and father questions whether to shelter his family from a coming storm, or from himself. – via IMDB

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GRADE 7This was not a ground-breaking movie by a long shot and left me feeling a little let down at the best of times. Michael Shannon was fantastic to watch and played his character down to a tee. Jessica Chastain also impressed me in her role as Samantha. The movie felt very long, though it was not really a long film. In terms of watching a man dealing with the paranoia stemming from coming from a family of mental illness and his struggle to understand his current circumstances it was very interesting. The struggle he and his family went through to work it out and find a way to deal with it all was also very good. It  just feels like after two hours no much happened, though the character portrayal was very good. The drama aspect was impressive, and played out rather well, greatly acted. I think a large part of this movie’s success leans strongly on the actors and their abilities. Also, the suspense was good, though sometimes I felt that it missed out on it a bit. I like how the story kept to what it was supposed to be about: Curtis, his family, and his paranoia at his situation. Not a bad watch, I just think I expected a little bit more from it all.

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.