*NEW* MANCHESTER BY THE SEA REVIEW *NEW*

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A wonderfully acted emotionally packed drama.

An uncle (Casey Affleck) is asked to take care of his teenage nephew (Lucas Hedges) after the boy’s father (Kyle Chandler) dies.

It’s always a pleasure when a film can surpass your expectations and reward you with something so much more.

It was funny that I was complaining about the La La Land hype with this entry coming in a swift second on the overbearing hype train.

BUT I have to say, this was brilliant.

Casey Affleck has always played strange roles from introverted wackos to isolated loners. This role was perfect for him. He made the socially awkward Lee work a treat.

The slow burning style allowed the drama to unfold perfectly.

We followed Lee as he trundled along his humdrum lifestyle of a janitor at an apartment building. The mundane tasks, the strange tenants, the complaining and weird requests. A ticking time bomb waiting to explode.

The news of his brother’s passing triggering flashbacks. Flicking back and forth between the past and present as we got a better understanding of Lee and the reasons behind his fractious relationship with his nephew.

Baffled to be awarded guardianship after all that had happened. I hadn’t read anything about this film and the revelations with Lee’s past completely surprised me. Don’t worry, no spoilers here.

Lonergan has written a heartfelt story that dealt with grief on such levels. It was almost real.

The awkward exchanges as Lee had to deal with depressing funeral arrangements, idle chit chat and various reactions from people as they learnt of his brother’s passing. It couldn’t be more in tune.

It is a huge gamble to make a 2 and a half hour movie that relies solely on two leads. BUT I don’t think it would worked without Hedges and Affleck. They were brilliant.

The power of a performance that can deliver such emotion that you get caught up in it. There were several scenes that actually got to me. I felt for all of them. Affleck deserved that BAFTA.

It was surprisingly funny, upsetting and dark. I went through a rollercoaster of emotions as did our protagonist. Struggling to communicate with an awkward teenager who was more concerned about his social lifestyle than his father’s death.

The tension bubbling away as Lee, a creature of comforts, seemed desperate to get back to his quiet life. Of course, he had his reasons.

A scene involving frozen meat triggered an unexpected breakdown out of the blue with the pair finally coming to terms with their feelings. I laughed, I cried. Superb.

I remembered Lonergan’s last effort Margaret being one for a testing pace and I know a lot of people grumbled about the pace of this one. BUT I can’t even say this dragged. I was completely engrossed with the characters and the drama. I wanted more.

The supporting cast played their parts perfectly. Michelle Williams wasn’t in this enough. From all the hype, I expected her to be in this for a good portion of the film. Her screen time probably only accumulated to 15/20 minutes?

BUT she was excellent as Lee’s ex-wife. Their reunion was heartbreaking as we realised that Lee was a man tormented by his own demons long before the news of his estranged brother’s death.

Always happy to see Mr Friday Night Lights Kyle Chandler get more screen time as Lee’s brother. Gretchen Mol (Boardwalk Empire) delivered as his volatile widow and I didn’t expect to see Matthew Broderick pop up in this?

Despite my praise, I still had my grumbles. I’m not sure whether it was the cinema surround sound BUT I found Lesley Barber’s music score overbearing. It didn’t take away the emotional impact of the scene BUT I found myself getting increasingly irritated.

It felt like someone was playing with the volume (Maybe they were. I did watch it in forum).

It was only the final act that disappointed me. And that was because it didn’t go in the direction I wanted. Forever a cynical optimist (Yeah, work that one out). Hoping for a happily ever after for the troubled pair.

BUT as the credits rolled (and a little more discussion after), I couldn’t see any other way that the story could end. It worked.

I went expecting in nothing and came out rewarded with a brilliantly acted and well written drama that dealt with grief on many levels.

It is a little gloomy BUT if you’re in the mood for a drama that delivers on the feels, look no further.

4/5

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*NEW* CAROL REVIEW *NEW*

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Two superb performances reprieve an overhyped and overlong affair.

Set in 1950s New York, a department-store clerk (Rooney Mara) who dreams of a better life falls for an older, married woman (Cate Blanchett).

I think this was another case of hype being a hindrance. I don’t know what I was expecting BUT somehow it didn’t quite deliver.

The pace was far too long. I didn’t mind watching the slow burning romance blossom BUT that there wasn’t much else. Romance movies were never my forte and the subject matter wasn’t as engaging as I had hoped.

I mean it in the best way because their relationship seemed so normal. With the legalisation of gay marriage and the rise of movies focusing on the gay rights movement and gay characters, it has marked a progressive change in perception.

All I saw was a normal relationship between two people. Of course, what helped was good characters and great acting that allowed you to buy into it. Blanchett and Mara were superb. They had fantastic chemistry and really made the relationship work.

The meandering pace really didn’t help things. It dipped in and out. This could have been done in 90 minutes and been better for it. The 50s controversial context gave it the much needed spice and things took a nastier turn when Carol’s husband Harge (Kyle Chandler – Friday Night Lights) came into the mix.

You felt for Carol as Harge battles the court to take her daughter away. Fighting for full custody on the grounds of breaking a “morality cause”. His anger and obsession to control Carol was daunting stuff and allowed for some tense moments. His volatile mood swings and drunken stupor created a threatening menace. But beneath all that bravado was a man scorned.

Carol is soon forced to make a decision to face the “moral” implications and have her dirty laundry about her previous relationships aired in the courts at the risk of losing her daughter or give up the love of her life. It was interesting watching Carol’s relationship with her previous lover Abby (Sarah Poulson – American Horror Story). A future glimpse of what could lie in store. A lonely woman haunting a big house.

The closing 30 minutes picked up the pace. The love scenes were dealt with tactfully BUT it’s not as if both actresses have been shy in front of the camera before. Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) played the confused Therese to perfection while Blanchett proved once again why she deserved that Oscar gold (Blue Jasmine) in a fantastic little scene as she pleaded with Harge one last time.

Edward Lachman’s cinematography was very unflattering. It added a much needed realism to the piece BUT was far too grainy and just terrible to look at. Carter Burwell’s musical score created the perfect mood setting and worked really well with the scenes.

I also didn’t expect to see Cory “The Riddler” Michael Smith from Gotham in a surprising supporting role.

Carol was definitely worth a watch to see two fantastic actresses at their best BUT I needed a little more story told in a shorter pace. There were a couple of things I didn’t expect BUT it still ended with the same end result. Shame.

2.5/5

WOLF OF WALL STREET REVIEW

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The Boss is back with one drug induced beast of a movie. Bold, brash and bloody bonkers but better than ever?

Nah, but it’s one hell of a ride!

It’s relentless, outrageous and doesn’t give a f- This film is not afraid to rock the boat. It literally capsizes one! DiCaprio’s Belfort is a monster but Scorsese always has that ability to make them so god damn watchable and likeable.

From the get go, Belfort’s character is very reminiscent of Liotta’s Henry Hill from Goodfellas. He makes it explicitly clear that he is out to make money and doesn’t care who he’s gotta screw to get to the top.

The opening sequence was a perfect indicator of the madness that will take over your life for the next three hours. Midget tossing, shagging and enough drugs to kill Keith Richards. You feel like you’re on drugs watching this. It’s so frantic, it’s almost like you’re watching a demented Luhrmann flick.

I won’t say too much about the film’s plot. Firstly, you won’t believe me. It’s so intense that it seems to throw everything but the kitchen sink. In fact, it launches the whole god damn kitchen! The only problem was that after the first hour, it got exhausting, a little repetitive and overlong.

However, the writing is sharp and everything you could expect from the legend and  “soprano” Terence “Boardwalk flippin’ Empire” Winter. It’s incredibly dark, gritty, violent and funny as hell. There is one scene I don’t know how DiCaprio and Hill did it. I won’t spoil it but my God!

Rodrigo Prieto’s cinematography is fantastic to boot and makes such a dirty and murky world look so glamourous. The cast are incredible. Jonah Hill is fantastic. His massive teeth and his erratic behaviour were hilarious. I couldn’t tell if he was improvising in parts because DiCaprio’s reactions seemed too genuine.

Great cameo from Matthew McConaughey. He manages to make a memorable impression in five minutes, summing up the beautiful reality of working in Wall Street and the true corruption that it brings. Plus his little motivation chant is very funny.

The stunning Margot Robbie certainly made her presence known. Plus she can act. What? I couldn’t get over the faces that popped up in this. Jon Bernthal (Shane from the Walking Dead), Jean Dujardin (The Artist), Jon Favreau, the movie legend that brought us When Harry Met Sally and This is Spinal Tap, Rob Reiner (on comic form) and Joanna Lumley.

However, plaudits must go to Leonardo DiCaprio. A tremendous actor who manages to stand out in a sea of talent. Proving why he is one of the best actors going. You can see why Scorsese has made him a regular. Even when the film may dip in pace, DiCaprio carries it every time. Bravo.

It was also good to see Kyle Chandler. An underrated actor in my opinions. Friday Night Lights fans will agree. A much needed injection as the second hour approached. He worked well with DiCap. A perfect catalyst with much needed tension and top notch banter.   

One little gripe. I can’t believe Winter had the cheek to steal a line from one of my favourite films, Heat. “Who? Who? What are ya? A fucking owl”.

It was always going to be tough for Scorsese to top such iconic films as Goodfellas, Casino, Raging Bull and Taxi Driver. His last few films have been good but lack that edge (except Shutter Island).

I still believe that Scorsese was given the Oscar for the wrong movie. The Departed was one of his weaker entries. But in a way, it must be the universe amending such a big mistake for Goodfellas.

Wolf of Wall Street may look like it has that edge but it’s just too ridiculous and exhausting that I was a little relieved to see the ending. That’s the problem with Scorsese flicks. There’s only ever two outcomes. They get away with it or they don’t.

Brilliantly shot, brilliantly acted and bloody bonkers. A little exhausting and overlong. Scorsese’s best? Nope BUT definitely worth a go.

3.5/5