Tag Archives: Amy Adams

My Favourite Films of the Year

Last year was been shit. In fact it was dog shit.

However, there were some absolute bangers released (both in terms of film and music). These are my favourite 10 films of 2016 (listed in no particular order/of the films I have seen – there are so many left on my ‘to watch’ list that I am sure are amazing too).

  1. Deadpooldeadpool.jpgDirected by:
    Tim Miller

    Written by:
    Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick

    Starring:
    – Ryan Reynolds
    – Morena Baccarin
    – Ed Skrein
    – Stefan Kapicic
    – Brianna Hildebrand
    – Karan Soni

    Genre:
    Romantic comedy/Sci-Fi/Superhero movie

    Synopsis:
    Wade (Ryan Reynolds) creates the alter-ego Deadpool after being subjected to a rogue experiment (which he turns to after discovering he has incurable cancer) that leaves him with accelerated healing powers and a quest for revenge for being disfigured.

    Why I loved it:
    This film is hilarious. It has a dry, quick script which is cutting. It’s a film that takes the mick out of its own genre, and is not afraid to subvert it at the same time. It’s a mixture of the humour of ‘Ant Man’ (2015) combined with the comic book style narratives of ‘Zombieland’ (2009) and ‘Kick-Ass’ (2010) (but less naivety and more sass). Even if (like me) you’re not totally convinced by superhero films as a genre, you’ll love this one.

  2. Green Room
    green room.jpg

    Written and Directed by:
    Jeremy Saulnier

    Starring:
    – Anton Yelchin
    – Joe Cole
    – Alia Shawkat
    – Callum Turner
    – David W. Thompson
    – Mark Webber
    – Patrick Stewart

    Genre:
    Horror/Thriller

    Synopsis:
    A band on tour play an off-road gig in a secluded part of the American Pacific Northwest, and accidentally witness a horrific violent act. Consequently, they unintentionally become the targets of a terrifying gang of skinheads (who own the bar they have played in), and so have to try and escape as the skinheads attempt to cover all evidence of the crime.

    Why I loved it:
    I went into the cinema expecting this film to be a tongue-in-cheek, black comedy movie about a band trying to escape a room they become trapped in after witnessing something they should not have. I was pleasantly (or shockingly) surprised to find out that this was in fact a fully fledge horror film about neo-Nazis, and was fully gripped/horrified in equal measures. There is an excellent balance of music, gore and suspense. It was not what I was expecting, and had a resounding impact on me. I loved the style/way it was filmed, and the acting is great. If you like dark, subtle horrors you’ll like this.

     

  3. The Witch
    sundance-horror-movie-the-witch
    Written and Directed by:
    Robert Egger

    Starring:
    – Anya Taylor-Joy
    – Ralph Ineson
    – Kate Dickie
    – Harvey Scrimshaw

    Genre:
    Horror

    Synopsis:
    Set in New England in the 1630s, a family lead a devout Christian life on the edge of a community they have been banished from. One day, their baby disappears from under the eyes of their eldest child, which their younger children blame on the ‘Witch’ that lives in the woods.

    Why I loved it:
    I am a Northerner, so first and foremost, I loved the broad English Northern accents of all the actors. I also love this period of American history, especially the suspicion aroused by devout Christians suspecting that the unusual women of society are all witches. In turn, I liked how the film captured the traditional themes of witchcraft in a subtle, natural way (like the act of becoming possessed). If you like old-school horrors, you’ll love this.

  4. Nocturnal Animals
    nocturnal-animals
    Written and Directed by:
    Tom Ford

    Starring:
    Amy Adams
    – Jake Gyllenhaal
    – Michael Shannon
    – Aaron Taylor-Johnson
    – Isla Fisher
    – Ellie Bamber
    – Arnie Hammer

    Genre:
    Thriller

    Synopsis:
    The Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal) writes a novel about his ex wife Susan Morrow (Amy Adam) and dedicates this to her, despite not having spoken to her in years. The name of the book is ‘Nocturnal Animals’ (named after her), and as she reads this ‘devastatingly beautiful’ piece, she sees parallels of her life within the book, through dark and thrilling action.

    Why I loved it:
    I know I said I would not rate these film in any order, but I have to say that this was my favourite film of the year. This is because this film had the most impact on me. The plot is so simple yet so gripping. The cinematography, script and acting are flawless. I left the cinema feeling ill at ease in the best way. If you want a film that will entice and make you leave the cinema feeling a little introspective, then watch this!

  5. My Scientology Movie
    my scientology.jpg

    Written and Directed by:
    John Dower

    Starring:
    – Louis Theroux
    – Rob Alter
    – Tom Cruise
    – Paz de la Huerta
    – Tom De Vocht

    Genre:
    Documentary

    Synopsis:
    This is a documentary about Scientology (a 1950s religion founded by sci-fi author L. Ron Hubbard shrouded in mystery and controversy). The investigative journalist Louis Theroux follows Mark Rathburn (a former senior church official), as well as other ex-members, and recreates scenes that these past members have personally experienced. They are unable to gain access to the ‘Churches’ facilities, and so have to recreate these scenes in a studio with hired actors.

    Why I loved it:
    I love Louis Theroux, so am probably a little biased with regards to recommending this. I think he is so engaging, and speaks on a level that anyone and everyone can connect with. Similarly, this topic is fascinating, and highlights (like most American subcultures) all the hypocrisies of this weirdly eccentric scientific based religion. I went to a Q&A session of this, and was blown away by how engaging Louis Theroux is. I know how long it takes to make a good documentary, so although the idea of Scientology has been done (and some may view this as outdated and tired), this was definitely worth the wait. It was eye opening, fascinating, and made me want to learn more about Scientology (and religion/cults in general).

  6. 10 Cloverfield Lane
    10 cloverfield lane.jpg
    Directed by:

    Dan Trachtenberg

    Written by:
    Josh Campbell, Matthew Steucken and Damien Chazelle
    Starring:
    John Goodman
    – Mary Elizabeth Winstead
    – John Gallagher Jr.

    Genre:
    Thriller/Sci-fi/Action/Horror

    Synopsis:
    Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has an accident when another car hits hers (when she’s distracted from witnessing something flying through the sky), and wakes up locked in a room. She discovers that this is an underground bunker habited by 2 other men. She has to figure out what has happened and / or escape from the unintentional trap she has got herself caught in.

    Why I loved it:
    It just was not what I was expecting. When I read about this sequel to ‘Cloverfield’ (2008), I thought it was going to be just that – a sequel. I thought it was going to be filmed in exactly the same way (with the same handheld style footage), in the same way (an alien invasion where the characters of the movie are trying to escape impending death), and full of actors I only half recognised. Consequently, I was happily surprised that none of this rang true. I loved the original, but am glad that they did not just replicate this, and instead produced something that was different from your run-of -the-mill alien invasion films/was grilling and had a great cast and soundtrack. This was a happy surprise. A lot is captured in this film despite its small setting and sparse cast – very entertaining and one of my favourite films of the year.

  7. A Bigger Splash
    bigger slplash.jpg
    Directed by:
    Luca Guadagino

    Written by:
    David Kaiganich and Alain Page

    Starring:
    – Tilda Swindon
    – Matthias Schoenaerts
    – Ralph Fiennes
    – Dakota Johnson
    Genre:
    Thriller

    Synopsis:
    Paul De Smedt (Matthias Schoenaerts), an ex drug addicted actor, and Marianne Lane (Tilda Swindon), a singer recovering from a throat operation, take refuge in France. They bump into the Marianne’s old boyfriend (Ralph Fiennes), and so end up putting him and his young, volatile ‘daughter'(Dakota Johnson) up for the weekend. Things turn a rye as tensions (both psychological and sexual) build as the four have to deal with living together.

    Why I loved this:
    I liked the way it was filmed. I was not 100% sure what the film was about before watching it, and could not entirely predict what was going to happen. I liked the style of the film (the setting, costumes, behaviour), as well as the cast. I like the soundtrack, and it just reminded me of a cool 60s film with edge. Both Tilda Swindon and Ralph Fiennes were great (and Matthias Schoenaerts is just so handsome and cool) – another winning film in my eyes. This is based on the film ‘La Piscine’ (1969), which I definitely want to watch.

     

  8. Hail, Caesar!
    hail caesar.jpg
    Written and Directed by:
    Joel and Ethan Coen

    Starring:
    – Josh Brolin
    – George Clooney
    – Alden Ehrenreich
    – Ralph Fiennes
    – Scarlett Johansson
    – Tilda Swindon
    – Channing Tatum
    – Jonah Hill

    Genre:
    Black comedy

    Synopsis:
    Set in the 1950s, this film focuses on the Communist writers strike in America in a comical, ironic way. Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), a famous actor, is kidnapped by the writers guild, and is held for ransom.

    Why I loved this:
    It was made by the Coen Brothers. The storyline was very slow, and little to nothing happened (except for the above mentioned synopsis). However, not much has to happen in a Coen Brothers’ film for it to be a success. The manner in which they tell stories is just brilliant. They are always composed of grand schemes undermined by the flawed characters that create them. I like this era (1950s McCarthyism, with American film studios at their classiest, sprinkled with a smidge of Communist fear), and it is just captured so well – the unjust contrasts of the era (that arguably still persist today) perfectly captured in this piece.

  9. Finding Dory
    thA0YLV0YO.jpg
    Directed by:
    Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane

    Written by:
    Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane, Victoria Strouse and Bob Peterson

    Starring:
    – Ellen DeGeneres
    – Albert Brooks
    – Ed O’Neill
    – Kaitlin Olson
    – Hayden Rolence
    – Ty Burell
    – Diane Keaton
    – Idris Elba
    – Bill Hader
    – Sigourney Weaver

    Genre:
    Comedy/Animation/Adventure film

    Synopsis:
    A forgetful fish named Dory ( tries to find her real family with the help of 2 other fish, but sadly loses her way.

    Why I loved this:
    This is the second sequel mentioned in this list and, like the first, I was expecting this to be a complete replication of the first film (‘Finding Nemo’ (2003)). However, I was pleasantly surprised that this, again, was not the case. I was terrified that Pixar could not create another film that would hold up to the original, so really did not want them to make this – but am happy that they did. There were obvious parallels between each of these the film (as the original cast are featured/the story is pretty much a continuation of the first), but with a strong cast of new characters, fantastic humour (suitable for all ages), and interesting storyline, this film comes into its own. It was cute and Pixar has definitely done it again – another fantastic animation!

  10. Bridget Jones’ Baby
    thAP0X4ZVE.jpg
    Directed by:
    Sharon Maguire

    Written by:
    Helen Fielding, Dan Mazer and Emma Thompson
    Starring:
    – Renee Zellweger
    – Gemma Jones
    – Jim Broadbent
    – Sally Philips
    – Shirley Henderson
    – Colin Firth
    – Patrick Dempsey

    Genre:
    Comedy/Rom-Com

    Synopsis:
    Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) has a baby, but is unsure who the father of her baby is. There is a 50/50 chance that it is either her ex (Colin Firth) or a one night stand (Patrick Dempsey), and so she has to tackle the situation and deal with the fall out of this.

    Why I loved this:
    I love chick flicks (when they are good), and this one is fantastic. I liked the first film, but was not balled away by the second, so did not know what to expect. I ended up falling in love with this. I could (and have to many people) poke holes in the plot of this film, but in spite of all this, thought it was cute and a great way to reintroduce this character (created by the author Helen Fielding). I liked all the actors involved (even Colin Firth – who I find annoying in anything other than ‘Love Actually’ (2003)). I have put this in my top 10 as I find it hard to find a good chick flick, but when I do, I can watch them over and over again. I have already watched this 4 times, and it has not even been out for a year yet….It’s a goofy, classic.

 

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Golden Globe Awards (2017)

This is my fist film blog of the New Year, so as it was the 74th Golden Globes last night, I have decided to start the year off with a post on the best films of the previous year/those still yet to be released.

Below are the lists of the film/television winners and nominees from the award ceremony hosted last night, held by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Of those I have seen, the winners are rightly so – and those I have not yet seen, I am extremely excited to!

Similarly, the hype surrounding this award ceremony has made me pumped for the Academy Awards that are to be held on the 26th of February 2017.

Best Motion Picture – Drama
‘Moonlight’: Winner
‘Hell or High Water’: Nominee
‘Lion’: Nominee
‘Manchester by the Sea’: Nominee
‘Hacksaw Ridge’: Nominee

 

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
‘La La Land’: Winner
’20th Century Women’: Nominee
‘Deadpool’: Nominee
‘Florence Foster Jenkins’: Nominee
‘Sing Street’: Nominee

 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama
Isabelle Huppert (‘Elle’): Winner
Amy Adams (‘Arrival’): Nominee
Jessica Chastain (‘Miss Sloane’): Nominee
Ruth Negga (‘Loving’): Nominee
Natalie Portman (‘Jackie’): Nominee

 

Best Performance by an Actor in Motion Picture – Drama
Casey Affleck (‘Manchester by the Sea’): Winner
Joel Edgerton (‘Loving’): Nominee
Andrew Garfield (‘Hacksaw Ridge’): Nominee
Viggo Mortensen (‘Captain Fantastic’): Nominee
Denzel Washington (‘Fences’): Nominee

 

Best Performance by an Actress in Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Emma Stone (‘La La Land’): Winner
Annette Bening (’20th Century Women’): Nominee
Lily Collins (‘Rules Don’t Apply’): Nominee
Hailee Stenfield (‘The Edge of Seventeen’): Nominee
Meryl Streep (‘Florence Foster Jenkins’): Nominee

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Ryan Gosling (‘La La Land’): Winner
Colin Farrell (‘The Lobster’): Nominee
Hugh Grant (‘Florence Foster Jenkins’): Nominee
Jonah Hill (‘War Dogs’): Nominee
Ryan Reynolds (‘Deadpool’): Nominee

 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture
Viola Davis (‘Fences’): Winner
Naomie Harris (‘Moonlight’): Nominee
Nicole Kidman (‘Lion): Nominee
Octavia Spencer (‘Hidden Figures’): Nominee
Michelle Williams (‘Manchester by the Sea’): Nominee

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture
Aaron Taylor-Johnson (‘Nocturnal Animals’): Winner
Mahershala Ali (‘Moonlight’): Nominee
Jeff Bridges (‘Hell or High Water’): Nominee
Simon Helberg (‘Florence Foster Jenkins’): Nominee
Dev Patel (‘Lion’): Nominee

 

Best Director – Motion Picture
Damien Chazelle (‘La La Land’): Winner
Tom Ford (‘Nocturnal Animals’): Nominee
Mel Gibson (‘Hacksaw Ridge’): Nominee
Barry Jenkins (‘Moonlight’): Nominee
Kenneth Lonergan (‘Manchester by the Sea’): Nominee

 

Best Screen Play – Motion Picture:
Damien Chazelle (‘La La Land’): Winner
Tom Ford (‘Nocturnal Animals’): Nominee
Barry Jenkins (‘Moonlight’): Nominee
Kenneth Lonergan (‘Manchester by the Sea’): Nominee
Taylor Sheridan (‘Hell or High Water’): Nominee

 

Best Motion Picture – Animated
‘Zootopia’: Winner
‘Moana: Nominee
‘My Life As A Zucchini’: Nominee
‘Sing’: Nominee
‘Kubo and the Two Strings’: Nominee

 

Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language
‘Elle’ (France): Winner
‘Divines’ (France): Nominee
‘Neruda’ (Chile): Nominee
‘The Salesman’ (Iran, France): Nominee
‘Toni Erdamann’ (Germany): Nominee

 

Best Original Score – Motion Picture
Justin Hurwitz (‘La La Land’): Winner
Nicholas Britell (‘Moonlight’): Nominee
Jóhann Jóhannsson (‘Arrival’): Nominee
Dustin O’Halloran, Hauschka (‘Lion’): Nominee
Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams, Benjamin Wallfisch (‘Hidden Figures’ (Nominee)

 

Best Original Song – Motion Picture
City of Stars – Justin Hurwitz (‘La La Land’): Winner
Can’t Stop the Feeling! (‘Trolls’): Nominee
Faith (‘Sing’): Nominee
Gold (‘Gold’): Nominee
How Far I’ll Go (‘Moanna’): Nominee

 

Best Television Series – Drama
‘The Crown’: Winner
‘Game of Thrones’: Nominee
‘Stranger Things’: Nominee
‘This is Us’: Nominee
‘Westworld’: Nominee

 

Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy
‘Atlanta’: Winner
‘Black-ish’: Nominee
‘Mozart in the Jungle’: Nominee
‘Transparent’: Nominee
‘Veep’: Nominee

 

Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
‘The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story’: Winner
‘American Crime’: Nominee
‘The Dresser: Nominee
‘The Night Manager’: Nominee
‘The Night Of’: Nominee

 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television
Sarah Paulson (‘The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story’): Winner
Riley Keough (‘The Girlfriend Experience’): Nominee
Charlotte Rampling (‘London Spy’): Nominee
Kerry Washington (‘Confirmation’): Nominee
Felicity Huffman (‘American Crime’): Nominee

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television
Tom Hiddleston (‘The Night Manager’): Winner
Riz Ahmed (‘The Night Of’): Nominee
Bryan Craston (‘All The Way’): Nominee
John Turturro (‘The Night Of’): Nominee
Courtney B. Vance (‘The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story’)

 

Best Performance by an Actress in A Television Series – Drama
Claire Foy (‘The Crown’): Winner
Caitriona Balfe (‘Outlander’): Nominee
Keri Russell (‘The Americans’): Nominee
Winona Ryder (‘Stranger Things’): Nominee
Evan Rachel Wood (‘Westworld’): Nominee

 

Best Performance by an Actor in A Television Series – Drama
Billy Bob Thornton (‘Goliath’): Winner
Rami Malek (‘Mr Robot’): Nominee
Bob Odenkirk (‘Better Call Saul’): Nominee
Matthew Rhys (‘The Americans’): Nominee
Live Schreiber (‘Ray Donovan’): Nominee

 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy
Tracee Ellis Rosh (‘Black-ish’): Winner
Rachel Bloom (‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’): Nominee
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (‘Veep’): Nominee
Sarah Jessica Parker (‘Divorce’): Nominee
Issa Rae (‘Insecure’): Nominee

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy
Donald Glover (‘Atlanta’): Winner
Anthony Anderson (‘Black-ish’): Nominee
Gael García Bernal (‘Mozart in the Jungle’): Nominee
Nick Holte (‘Graves’): Nominee
Jeffrey Tambor (‘Transparent’): Nominee

 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Olivia Coleman (‘The Night Manager’): Winner
Lena Headey (‘Game of Thrones’): Nominee
Chrissy Metz (‘This is Us’): Nominee
Mandy Moore (‘This is Us’): Nominee
Thandie Newton (‘Westworld’): Nominee

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Hugh Laurie (‘The Night Manager’): Winner
Sterling K. Brown (‘The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story’: Nominee
John Lithgow (‘The Crown’): Nominee
Christian Slater (‘Mr Robot’): Nominee
John Travolta (‘The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story’): Nominee

 

Cecile B. DeMille Award
Meryl Streep: Recipient

 

 

 

‘Arrival’ (2016) – 7/10

 

 

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I am not really into sci-fi as a film genre. Unless it is part of the ‘Alien’/’Predator’ franchise (which undoubtably includes ‘Prometheus’ (2012)), then generally I am not interested. This is the attitude I sadly went into the cinema with before watching ‘Arrival’ last week, which is the new drama mystery sci-fi film directed by Denis Villeneuve.

I really did not like the advert for this film. I thought it looked like a stereotypical American “feel-good” movie about discovering UFOs, and communicating with other life forms in the universe in a sickly self-righteous way. However, I feel that these scenes were purposefully chosen to give this illusion, and gave little away of the actual plot of the film, and that the film in fact had another dimension.

‘Arrival’ is a film in which 12 pod-shaped extraterrestrial spacecrafts mysteriously land in different locations around the world – one of which being America. Consequently, the US Army recruit Louise Banks (Amy Adams), who is a Professor of Linguistics at one of America’s top universities, to help communicate with the aliens, along with Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), a theoretical physicist. The pair manage to make contact with 2 of the “heptapods” (the 7 limbed creatures aboard the craft), and Louise discovers that the aliens use a written language of complicated circular symbols to communicate with. They begin to learn that the symbols correspond to basic vocabulary, but are unable to decipher whether the aliens know the difference between a ‘weapon’ and a ‘tool’. Consequently, America, along with 11 other nations that the spacecrafts landed in, struggle to find out what the aliens’ purpose on Earth actually is, as these nations face different obstacles (like political barriers) that they have to overcome before time runs out.

Although the film appears like a generic UFO film, hinting at what America is capable of should a spacecraft land in the US, there is another dimension to this film that I really liked. As mentioned in my previous posts, I do not like spoiling the plot of a film, so will not give the twist of the film away. Instead, I will speak about how my expectations of the film (i.e. that this was going to be shit) were shattered, and the strengths and weaknesses of the film – avoiding any spoilers.

From the advert, I thought that Ian (Renner) looked like an arrogant scientist, who was going to be a hinderance (like most stereotypical scientists in such films) to making vital discoveries. However, he helps Louise (Adams) interact successfully with the aliens, makes crucial theoretical discoveries and, beyond his initial introduction in the film, is not annoying at all. Similarly, I thought that Professor Banks was going to be a weak, flawed character, by letting her emotions get in the way of her work. This, to some extent, is accurate. However, she uses this to break forward and pushes herself in order to strive in her work. Consequently, I thought that the casting of this film was extremely good, and that the advert did not do them justice. This includes CIA Agent Halpern (Michael Stuhlbarg), and Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker), both of whom take assertive figures of authority.

Throughout the film, there are flashbacks to Professor Louise Banks’ life, which come to light whilst  she is trying to decipher what the aliens’ are communicating. These include visions of Ms Banks’ family life, as well as her becoming a renowned linguist. I thought that these scenes were shot beautifully (lots of shallow depth of field was used), which symbolise their poignance and meaning to her. Therefore, I thought that the film was edited extremely well.  This film was edited by Joe Walker (best known for his work on ’12 Years a Slave’ (2013) and ‘Sicario’ (2015)), who I think did a dramatic yet poignant edit of this non-linear film, and used CGI in a tasteful and understated way (considering that it was a sci-fi film). Similarly, the soundtrack for ‘Arrival’, which was composed by Jóhann Jóhannsson (best known for ‘Sicario’ (2015) and ‘The Theory of Everything’ (2014)), beautifully complimented the edit. The accompaniment and soundtrack was dramatic where it needed to be, yet light and reminiscent in the appropriate places. Likewise, the human interactions with the “heptapods” were made that more atmospheric and daunting by the special effects.

In short, I thought that ‘Arrival’ was a lot better than I thought it was going to be. It was not the best UFO film I have ever seen, but kept my attention and was overall very entertaining. I thought that the CGI used was  spectacular as it was not excessively used, and instead was quite understated for a sci-fi film. Sometimes, CGI heavy films completely underwhelm me. For example, I felt that as ‘Gravity’ (2013) was a very CGI-oriented film, and as I hadn’t watched it in the cinema, could not get my head around why people liked it so much…. Although ‘Arrival’ is a film intended to be seen in the big screen, I feel that there is enough interesting plot and back story / does not solely rely on special effects, to get away with this. Therefore, I would recommend this film, but am unsure I would have had such a warm reaction coming out of the film had I not gone in with such low expectations. True fans of the sci-fi genre will love this film.

 

‘Nocturnal Animals’ (2016) – 8/10

nocturnal-animals-title-banner‘Nocturnal Animals’ is hands down one of my favourite, if not favourite, films of the year. The last time a film had such an impact on me was when I watched ‘Black Swan’ (2010) for the first time, which left me feeling disturbed and unsettled, and a little introspective – which is exactly what ‘Nocturnal Animals’ did for me.

I was not sure what I was expecting when I entered the cinema, and the advert that i’d seen gave little away. ‘Nocturnal Animals’ is a film about a novelist named Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal), who writes a novel dedicated to his first wife Susan Morrow (Amy Adams), who became a wealthy gallery owner married to Hutton Morrow (Arnie Hammer), a successful business man. The title of Edward’s book is Nocturnal Animals, a nickname that Edward used for Susan whilst they were married (as she suffers with insomnia), which Susan describes as ‘devastatingly beautiful’, and hints that things described in the book have parallels to their past relationship.

The reason why I liked this film so much is because it is a simple idea (a story within a story), executed masterfully. The film begins with Susan hosting her gallery opening, which featured naked overweight women dancing as art instillations. From first glance, they clearly symbolised freedom (from the expressions of delight on their faces). However, their images were captured in slow motion, which makes the viewer ill at ease. For me, this juxtaposition of freedom of expression (the raw nakedness and liberty that these overweight women seemingly felt through facial expressions) was hindered by the limit of time – they were essentially trapped within slow motion, which emphasised all their socially defined flaws. This scene reminded me of the gothic scenes from the film Seven (1995), which is a detective crime thriller that focuses on the seven deadly sins. This in turn, made me feel guilty for judging such care-free spirits… but then why should I be judged, if the intended purpose of this scene was to make the viewer question their beliefs / definitions of art?

These are feelings that were stirred up within me throughout the film (this juxtaposition of passion with gothic tragedy), which were most felt when Susan begins reading the novel dedicated to her from her ex-husband. Consequently, the film is interspersed with scenes like that of a arthouse flick, amongst compelling scenes envisaged by Susan from the book. These include scenes of Tony Hastings (Jake Gyllenhaal), his wife Laura Hastings (Isla Fisher) and daughter travelling across Texas, who bump into 3 Texan thugs; Ray Marcus (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Lou (Karl Glusman) and Turk (Robert Aramayo). The cut between the reality of the film and fiction of the book is done in such a dynamic way that halfway through the film my mum lent over and said how ‘gripping’ the film was.

Similarly, the cast is an extremely strong ensemble. I think that Aaron Taylor-Johnson is such an underrated actor. From seeing him in comedies like ‘Kick Ass’ (2010), where he plays a light-hearted nerd who wants to protect the world by fighting crime like his comic book heroes, to ‘Chatroom’ (2010), a film which I thought was shit, but he played an amazing sociopath, I can tell that he is an extremely versatile actor, and will go on to great things.  Within ‘Nocturnal Animals’, he plays an extremely believable redneck, who is assertive and has strong morals (despite his own moral compass being eschew with that of the law) . I also thought that Amy Adams played a devastatingly beautiful, lonely stereotypical rich wife playing at being a gallery owner, who questions whether turning her back on her first marriage (of passion and creativity) for one of stability and financial success was worth it.  I also thought that Michael Shannon (who plays Bobby Andes, a detective trying to solve crimes committed throughout the book), kept the crime thriller side of the film flowing, and Gyllenhaal (who plays Ted and Edward) held the duel story nicely together, and is a consistently solid actor. I must say that I could not fault anyone in this film.

The acting from the cast was extremely strong, the gore and crime within the film was realistic and edgy (used only as and when required), and the ending extremely in-Hollywood and unsatisfying – all of these elements made this film, for me, one of the best of the year. As soon as I walked out of the cinema my mind was reeling at how amazing this film was. It left me feeling uncomfortable at what I had seen, yet made me want to strive for success (despite the message of the film being that the world of art and success is ultimately futile, yet is easier to swallow than the real world) – and ironically the most poignant piece full of raw emotion was that written by Edward (someone who is frequently described in the film as ‘weak’).

As I have said before, my mum leaned over and whispered ‘it’s so gripping’ – and that is the best word to describe this intense film. I was literally sat on the edge of my seat for the duration of the screening. It was not a horror, but a psychological whirlwind playing on the audiences’ emotions at a steady pace. It is written, co-produced and directed by Tom Ford, and is based on the 1993 novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright. It is definitely a book I now want to read (if it is as compelling of Ford’s adaptation). EVERYONE GO SEE THIS!