*NEW* NOCTURNAL ANIMALS REVIEW *NEW*

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Strange, hypnotic, tense, nail biting, different. Certainly one for the books.

An art gallery owner (Amy Adams) is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel (Jake Gyllenhaal), a violent thriller she interprets as a veiled threat and a symbolic revenge tale.

I hadn’t even sat down and got comfortable before I was wondering what the hell I was getting myself into.

I never like to read too much about a film. All I had to go by was the hype. The endless promotion and tweets. I had to seek it out. The eye popping opening sequence certainly grabbed my attention as a bunch of morbidly obese elderly naked women gyrated and flaunted their money makers across the giant silver screen.

I kid you not. I have to admit I wasn’t overly impressed with the first 15 minutes BUT director Tom Ford’s (A Single Man) hypnotic visual style (aided by Seamus McGarvey’s beautiful cinematography) and Adam’s (Arrival) presence kept me going.

Abel Korzeniowski’s musical score was something else. Perfectly balanced against the haunting backdrops.

It was only when Susan (Adams) received a mysterious manuscript from her ex husband that my interest was peaked. A dual narrative set with Susan’s (Adams) cynical lifestyle and unhappy marriage to Hutton (Armie Hammer – The Man from U.N.C.L.E) running alongside Edward’s (Gyllenhaal – Demolition) story.

Gyllenhaal was superb. He really excelled in playing both the author and his fictional counterpart Tony. Nightcrawler certainly marked a turning point in ol’ Darko’s impressive career and he delivered yet another sterling performance. Oscar?

The film flicked back and forth from Adams’ past to Tony’s fictional struggle. The only problem was that I was found myself more interested with the fictional world than the real one. I’m sure that was supposed to be the point BUT it was a little frustrating watching the talented Ms Adams become increasingly more passive. A mere spectator in her own narrative.

The cut backs conveniently appeared at the tensest moments of Tony’s traumatic journey in the desert as his family crossed paths with some unsavoury characters.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick Ass) was superb as the demonic Ray. A complete change of role for him. A revolting creature lurking in the darkness. Dare I say, a nocturnal animal waiting to strike. I really detested him. A great performance.

The suspense had me on tenterhooks as the family feared for their lives. BUT every time we cut back to Susan dealing with her empty and frustrated life, I was urging the film to get back to Tony.

The questions piling up. Why is Susan so captivated with this story? Did this happen to her? Is this why she is no longer with Edward?

The supporting cast were impeccable. Michael Shannon (Midnight Special) was equally good as Bobby. The cop with nothing to lose. Ready to do anything to help Tony get justice. Made a change to see him play something less sinister.

I was a little disappointed at the lack of Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon) and Anne Riseborough (Birdman). Reduced to passing cameos as Susan’s gallery friends. Shame. Laura Linney (Mystic River) made more of an impression in her minute role as Susan’s controlling mother.

Despite that bizarre opener, I was hooked to the very end as you began to peel beneath the layers and realize that there is more than meets the eye. Gyllenhaal and Adams had good chemistry as we finally delved into Edward and Susan’s relationship.

My only qualm on first watch was the ending. It was a little abrupt and left me baffled. I actually looked around the cinema, wondering “Did I miss something?”. Perplexed, I went to forums and discussed heavily on Twitter about the ambiguous finale.

BUT for the first time in a while, I was left talking about a film for days. It actually made me have to think. I actually wanted to watch it again. An impressive feat in itself. Especially if you look back on my last months review backlog.

It was suspenseful, engaging and brilliantly acted. There was even a moment that took me completely off guard and made quite a few people jump in the screen. One chap actually yelped in surprise (No, not me!)

If you’re in the mood for something a little different to the norm, I would heavily recommend.

4/5 (Just)

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TOP 20 BEST FILMS OF 2014 * PART TWO

SO HERE WE ARE . . . AT LAST. The second month into 2015.

I know, terrible. For those who are still interested, we have the SECOND PART of my best films of 2014. The top 11-20!

Feel free to search through my posts for my top 10. If you want, I can provide them.

The best (or better) ones of that mediocre movie year. My criteria mainly focused on the ones that surprised, intrigued and entertained me. And boy, it was tough. Many have been watchable. Okay at best. What was harder was condensing my 20 WORST films of 2014 (Which will be following shortly).

BUT there were diamonds in the rough sea of bilge that polluted the movie screens last year.

I have had to endure endless entries of mindless drivel regurgitating the same old plot, clichéd characters (even in their 3D wrapped foils) and excruciating acting or dreadful dialogue and to be honest, it’s killed my enthusiasm a little bit.

Now some entries you may question and unfortunately release dates are always different. My argument was films I saw in that year at the cinema. Some may have been released at the end of 2013 but I didn’t see them until early January 2014.

BUT that sums up my argument if they are in here.

I won’t go on too much about each film. That’s what the other posts are for but a quick two cents if you like. Some I hope you will nod in approval. Others you may scroll back and forth hoping that this is a joke. BUT my criteria is based on surprise, entertainment and engagement. So God knows what lies in store.

11. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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Now I am actually reading the book. This film lost marks for stretching out its source material to the max. However, Jackson still manages to deliver the goods by harvesting a special effects extravaganza of a movie. This slicker, darker installment made up for the lumbering opener that was An Unexpected Journey. The pace may still have been a little long at the tooth BUT was certainly the best in Jackson’s second trilogy.

12. Captain America: Winter Soldier

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A Marvel sequel that wasn’t needed but surprised me in surpassing the stuttery original. I felt the first Captain America was rushed to introduce the Cap in time for the Avengers and didn’t really cover as much of the WW2 elements as I had hoped. A superhero fighting in the war had a lot more promise for me. BUT the sequel had a decent story, good action pieces and added depth to the ‘Cap. Plus it gave a lot more screen time to the Black Widow and the legendary Nick Fury (At last!)

13. The Raid 2

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Fast and furious . . . after an hour of droll exposition. BUT it was still the most intense action film I saw that year. The final 45 minutes surpassed the original in suspense and action. Worth the wait. It may not have beat the original overall BUT other films need to use this as the next “How To Make An Action Movie” textbook.

14. St Vincent

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Bill Murray at his best in this easy going indie dramedy. It was funny, well acted with some cracking one liners and an impressive debut from young wunderkid Jaeden Lieberher.

15. Before I Go To Sleep

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A tense, slowburning but well crafted psychological thriller. Memento meets While You Were Sleeping. Even if I had sussed the big twist. The unveiling still took me by surprise. I thought the cast were fantastic. Kidman was on fine form and the last 15 minutes were brilliant.

16. The Maze Runner

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You read that, right? We had numerous teen book bestseller franchises flooding the screens. Divergent, Hunger Games, The Giver and . . . The Maze Runner. I went in, really expecting the worst and for the majority of the film, I was hooked. It’s hardly original but it zipped along and stopped me grumbling.

17. Nightcrawler

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A superb performance from Gyllenhaal. Deservedly earning a BAFTA nomination. Somehow managing to out-Bale Bale in this dark take on the American dream. Satirical, grim and engrossing. If a little predictable with an abrupt ending BUT still worth a gander.

18. The Guest

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Mr Crawley has left the Abbey and he’s kicking ass and taking names. A cracking and charismatic performance in this strange but riveting indie action flick. It felt like a film of two halves. Some may not like how it pans out BUT it certainly took me by surprise. Badass film of 2014? Hell yeah!

19. What If

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What if Harry Potter did an indie chick flick? It would be an easygoing and entertaining affair. That’s what. Radcliffe and Kazan had great chemistry and were a normal and believable couple. I actually cared what happened to them unlike the other umpteen romantic comedies that have wasted my time.

20. Blended

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I told you that I was going to think outside the box. I said surprised or entertained me. It has been a while since I have enjoyed a Sandler movie. And this says a lot from a die hard fan. Hardly die hard BUT I’ve endured them all. Blended certainly isn’t perfect but it felt like a return of sorts. It was certainly a return for Drew Barrymore. The plot is stupid and some gags fall flat on their backside.

BUT when it was funny, it had me in stitches. The family dynamic was dealt with well. The handling with the grief issues was done nicely and was unexpected. I enjoyed it. There’s still hope for the Sandler. I went in expecting nothing and was rewarded with something more. A good comedy. Hallelujah. Has the Mad Movie Ranter lost his marbles?

NIGHTCRAWLER REVIEW

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Donnie’s really gone Dark-o

Jake Gyllenhaal manages to do his best Patrick Bateman impression and out-Bale Bale in one of his best performances to date.

Dark, demented and very good. If a little predictable.

So what’s it about? When Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal), a driven man desperate for work, muscles into the world of L.A. crime journalism, he blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story.

Within the opening sequence, we get the essence of Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal) as he is caught stealing copper fencing from the train tracks. Flashing that Cheshire cat smile and pleading innocence, you can see the cogs turning. And in the bat of an eye, that smile fades instantly and a monster is unleashed. Cool, calm and collected. Striking when the moment arises.

A true American psycho. A smooth talking charmer with ambitions that he will stop at nothing to achieve.

An impressive and well written debut from Dan Gilroy. Fantastically shot. The cityscape at night was captured brilliantly by the cinematography of Robert Elswit.

Nightcrawler is somewhat of a slow burner as we watch Bloom climb the social ladder for fame and glory.

It starts with our sociopath desperately seeking a job and smooth talking his way into anything. That is until he witnesses a crash. Those flashing lights and ruthless nightcrawlers (Freelance cameramen preying the streets for horrific accidents, murders and crime scenes) creeping out from the urban underworld, craving for a pay check soon sets our protagonist on his path.

Bill Paxton plays the relentless Joe Loder brilliantly and it’s good to see him back in movies. His character dispensing the mantra: “If it bleeds, it leads” unwittingly sets up a competition for carnage.

Gilroy does make some fantastic commentary and satire on the censorship and attitude of the news media. The public’s obsession for blood and trauma constantly pushing them to distort moral and ethical boundaries for fifteen minutes of fame.

The film builds up and up as the madness ascends to crazy and scarily realistic levels. Where Bloom first intervenes small car accidents with a little handheld camera; it soon escalates to breaking into live crime scenes and moving pieces of evidence (and even bodies) to make the perfect shot.

It was great to see Riz Ahmed (Four Lions). He plays the clueless sidekick with aplomb. Oblivious to Bloom’s ambitions and unaware of what lay in store. Some of his encounters with Gylenhaal make for dark but comical viewing.

Rene Russo also stood out as Nina Romina (Awful name. Didn’t realise that until I saw the credits). Questioning the morals behind Bloom’s actions but desperately enabling him for the sake of keeping her job and bringing in the ratings.

SMALL BIT OF TRIVIA: Dan Gilroy is the husband of Rene Russo and brother of Tony Gilroy who is responsible for Michael Clayton and The Bourne franchise.

The chase sequences are intense. Especially in the closing moments as Bloom’s descent into darkness reaches breaking point.

There are suspenseful moments to be had. The sequence in which Bloom and his sidekick are filming the police attempting to apprehend a murder suspect. A scenario the pair set up. I was hooked. Nail biting stuff. Executed perfectly. The tension mounting as you wait for the fireworks to go off.

At times, it did feel like the trailers did show too much of the film. You knew when to expect several of the bigger moments in the film. That’s not to say there aren’t more surprises along the way.

Bloom is intelligent and some of his speeches rival Bateman. But crafty and calculated he may be, they go on far too long. Especially in his dinner date with Nina. We get it. You’re mad. Get on with it.

One major qualm is that with a film like this; there are only ever two outcomes. It seemed to go down the Bad Lieutenant (Cage Lieutenant) route which makes for a surprisingly flat (if typical) and slightly abrupt ending.

Don’t get me wrong. Gyllenhaal is a tour de force and should be commended. The weight loss added to his creepy demeanour and shark toothed grin. Gilroy has written and directed a visceral descent into the dark side of the American dream. Something we haven’t seen for a while. A resurgence? Maybe.

As Lou Bloom says, “If you want the lottery, you have to make the money to buy a ticket”. Well, if you have the money, buy a ticket and go see it.

Certainly worth a watch. And we are live in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .

3.5/5 (But this may change)