*NEW* SILENCE REVIEW *NEW*

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Silence was probably the best reaction I could muster after this arduous affair.

Two priests travel to Japan in an attempt to locate their mentor and propagate Catholicism.

There were moments where I felt I was being tortured with the priests and NOT in a good way (If there is a good way).

I’m a fan of Scorsese. Who isn’t? (If you’re not, get out of here!) Goodfellas, Casino, Shutter Island, Taxi Driver, the list goes on. We all have our favourites.

BUT his latest foray into religion left me a little numb and downtrodden.

This may have been a long term project finally coming to life BUT I found myself befuddled and lost in what the movie maestro was trying to do.

The strong opening sequence certainly grabbed my attention. The sound of crickets getting louder and louder until . . . NOTHING . . . Silence. The credits rolled. An air of unease as figures shifted around the foggy marshes.

The fog cleared to reveal crucifixes. The tone was set. My curiousity peaked. Cue the most challenging three hours of my life.

Rodrigo Prieto’s cinematography was hauntingly beautiful. In one shot, he could make a dilapidated village look desolate and deadly to warm and inviting. A masterstroke.

The first act was slow BUT engaging as Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) was forced to watch the torture of his own clergymen. His grim voice over describing every detail.

It was brutal as the priests had their bodies scolded with hot spring water. To stop the punishment; all they had to do was denounce God by stepping on a face plate of Jesus.

I felt Silence had a hint of Heart of Darkness with Ferreira’s whereabouts unknown (Yes, an absent Neeson. Disappointing). Only whispers in the wind suggesting his demise with some even saying the priest had abandoned his faith and taken refuge with the Japanese.

Andrew Garfield was fantastic as the naive Rodrigues. Refusing to believe the gossip and desperate to seek the truth. I don’t think I would have been as interested if he wasn’t at the helm. He carried the piece.

I was constantly on edge throughout the film. The unease and suspense was executed perfectly. All the secrecy and creeping around for two priests to deliver Midnight Mass. The villagers hiding in the dark. Afraid to announce their faith.

The silence was unsettling. Scorsese created a tranquil and haunting atmosphere. By the first hour, I was surprised to still be absorbed in this story as the priests hid under the floorboards to evade capture from The Inquisitor (Issei Ogata).

I loved the little nods to Akira Kurosawa. The influences were everywhere from the camera shots to the set design.

Jay Cocks (Don’t laugh. Come on now) and Scorsese penned a fantastic script. There were some great bits of dialogue. I haven’t read the Shusaku Endo novel so I don’t know how much of that praise goes to the author.

Adam Driver was surprisingly good as Garupe. I’ve only really known him as the loud mouth who loves sex and nachos in What If or the sulky emo Sith from Star Wars. He made a great duo with Garfield.

However, the middle act was where Scorsese should have trimmed the fat. It could have been cut by a good 40 minutes and this was where the problem began for me.

Ogata’s strangely eccentric and bizarrely camp performance as Inquisitor Inoue was a mixed bag for me.

His religious sparring with Rodrigues was brilliant. Two stubborn figures debating their cause and defending their faiths. BUT as they tackled these strong themes, beliefs and values, I could feel my attention waning.

The endless torture sequences were relentless as the Japanese continued to punish any self-proclaimed Christians and their loved ones. The agonising length and exhaustive monologuing soon had a cathartic effect.

I was disappointed when Rodrigues and Garupe split up to spread the good word. Driver’s absence was missed. Their dismal reunion was too rushed and abrupt for my liking.

Kichijiro’s character (Yôsuke Kubozuka) infuriated me. The cowardly villager that continually betrayed Rodrigues. Only to return to confess. I knew where I would have told him to go.

BUT if anything, he encapsulated the hypocrisy of the confession. As if being granted forgiveness by God would make up for his treachery?!

Tadanobu Asano was delightfully smug as the Interpreter. Toying with Rodrigues as he faced trial for his faith. Laughing at the priest’s belief. Knowing that resistance was futile.

The final act was tense, gripping and hard going as Rodrigues finally discovered Ferreira’s demise.

The film really put me through a rollercoaster ride of emotions BUT I can’t honestly say I enjoyed it. I considered seeking the novel for answers BUT I felt drained.

It was a daunting affair that certainly lingered long after my viewing BUT for the right reasons? Or just for the sheer disappointment?

Silence will determine the die hards from the Scorsese fans. If you fancy a completely different tone and direction with a fantastically acted religious drama, then this may be for you.

BUT anybody else may find this a testing effort that will lose you along the way.

Me? I’m still some what in-between.

2.5/5

*NEW* LIVE BY NIGHT REVIEW *NEW*

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Alright, alright.

The pace may have been a killer and we might have seen it all before BUT Affleck’s crime caper still packs a punch.

A group of Boston-bred gangsters set up shop in balmy Florida during the Prohibition era, facing off against the competition and the Ku Klux Klan.

The opening 20 minutes didn’t mess about. It set up Joe’s (Ben Affleck) past and got straight to business as he worked through the ranks from a petty thief to a bootlegger.

Being a noir nut, I was always going to be a little biased. It helps when some of Affleck’s better works; The Town, Gone Baby Gone (and now Live By Night) are heavily influenced by that very genre.

I’ve been impressed with Affleck’s transformation as a director. A maturity from his 90s blockbuster phase. And yes, I do think he will be a good Batman! Enough of these sad Affleck memes.

It was everything I expected from an Affleck penned gangster flick. I was already ticking noir traits off my imaginary checklist; embittered war veteran (check), disillusioned with the law (check), falling for a girl that can only mean trouble (CHECK! CHECK! CHECK!).

I say Affleck penned. He did have a little help from Dennis Lehane’s crime novel (Thank you @TheMarckoguy). A noir author I intend to read up on. A man that has penned such works as: Shutter Island, Mystic River and The Drop.

I was engrossed in Joe’s game. Playing off the Irish against the Italians in their turf war. Just to get a piece of the action and stay out of the cross-hairs. BUT it wasn’t long before the protagonist had to make a choice.

Always felt that Robert Glenister was a very underrated TV actor. Just watch BBC’s Hustle. I didn’t expect to see him feature as Albert White, the Irish kingpin. He was brilliant. I wish he was in this more. A callous adversary if ever there was one. A ticking time bomb.

The fuse? A woman, of course. Sienna Miller (Foxcatcher) wasn’t in the film as much as I thought. Especially after all the interviews and heavy advertising.

She delivered a good performance as the moxy Emma BUT somehow I think if she had more screen time with that strange Irish accent, she might have overstayed her welcome very quickly.

Brendan Gleeson made a much more memorable impression as Joe’s father. A relief after his dire cameo in Assassin’s Creed (The less we say about that, the better). Sheesh.

Another character I would have been happy to see more of. His fractious relationship with Joe was an interesting angle that wasn’t explored enough. A copper desperate to see his criminal son on the right path.

“So you’re threatening me with people that are more powerful than you? So who am I talkin’ to you for?” Affleck was fantastic. Another powerhouse performance. He looked like a tank with that Bat bulk.

The pace did meander in parts with the middle act taking the biscuit BUT thankfully that was relieved by cracking dialogue, great action pieces and fantastic cinematography.

No, really. Robert Richardson’s cinematography was something else. The sweeping shots across Miami were breathtaking alone.

The car chases were brilliantly shot. It felt like you were in the car with the robbers as they evaded capture. And of course, no gangster flick would be complete without bodies being bullet ridden by Tommy guns.

I was a little disappointed with the female roles. Miller didn’t really come across as a strong femme fatale and Zoe Saldana (Guardians of the Galaxy) was completely wasted in her role.

The pair had good chemistry BUT there just wasn’t enough drama. Affleck missed an opportunity for sparks to fly when an old friend from Joe’s past crept out of the woodwork. Shame.

At first, I kept wondering why Elle Fanning (The Neon Demon) was reduced to such an unnecessary cameo as the sheriff’s daughter. However, there was an interesting turning point with her character that took me by surprise and allowed the actress her moment to shine. A good performance.

Despite my niggles, Affleck perfectly captured a gritty criminal underworld full of rich and dark characters. Chris Cooper (American Beauty) played the holistic sheriff with aplomb. Happy to turn a blind eye on Joe’s “business affairs”. Appropriately calling him, “The Mayor of Evil”.

The tense encounters with the KKK saved a labouring middle act. The suspense and heated exchanges soon brought me back into the fold. The only problem with a noir is that the end game is always the same.

The fiery final act was worth the wait. Nail biting, gripping and action packed. Even if Affleck gave us umpteen false endings. Seriously, I kept thinking the film had finished. Only for something else to pop up.

A little predictable, long at the tooth BUT tense, gritty and still a bloody good watch.

3/5

THE DROP REVIEW

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Tom Hardy’s performance certainly got the drop on me.

He proves yet again why he is one of the most versatile actors going.

So what’s it all about? Bob Saginowski (Hardy) finds himself at the centre of a robbery gone awry and entwined in an investigation that digs deep into the neighbourhood’s past where friends, families, and foes all work together to make a living. No matter the cost.

Penned and adapted from a short by Dennis Lehane, I knew I was in for a treat. Lehane has been responsible for some of the better crime dramas and thrillers of the last few years; Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River and Shutter Island.

It was also a fantastic and fitting endnote for the career of another talented actor who left us too soon. I’m looking at you, Big T. Mr Soprano himself, James Gandolfini.

BUT despite the fantastic casting, the pace leaves a little to be desired and the story? Considering the hype about killer twists. I found it all a little too simple and predictable.

Lehane’s work us very much in touch with my favourite genre, the film noir. The characters and seedy underworld were certainly captured perfectly by director Michael R. Roskam. Complimented by the grainy cinematography of Nicolas Karakatsanis.

BUT the convoluted, multi-layered story line? Not so much.

It did leave me wanting a little afterwards. All that promise and a twist that I saw coming a mile off. A shame.

BUT that’s not to say it isn’t worth checking out. Hardy is a charismatic lead, who has great chemistry with the equally talented Noomi Rapace (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo).

Rapace played the anxious and hesitant Nadia perfectly. Her role and motive questionable throughout.

The pair worked well together and I didn’t mind following them as their relationship inevitably blossomed.

Their bonding was helped by the discovery of an abused puppy that Bob finds in a trash can.

Rocco the puppy was adorable (What? He was. Losing man points like crazy). It lightened up the dark, gritty undertones bubbling beneath the surface which killed the atmosphere a little bit.

BUT if the little pup didn’t appear, there wasn’t much else going on to begin with.

It also allowed for Bob to break his shy demeanour and pry into his background a little.

Oh! James Gandolfini was superb. To be honest, there wasn’t enough of him. I couldn’t help but feel that his character Cousin Marv was nothing more than a “What If . . . Tony Soprano went in Witness Protection and became a bar owner”.

His presence and delivery stole every frame. No, not like that. His one liners just made me want to go back and watch The Sopranos all over again. Marv’s fractious relationship with Bob was an interesting one to watch.

The tension slowly building as tempers rose. The pressure mounting from their business interests under the vague title of “The Armenian Mob”.

However, as the mayhem ensued, I felt Gandolfini’s character took a back seat. Understandably to an extent, without spoiling any content BUT still a little disappointing.

Matthias Schoenaerts (Bullhead) was also fantastic. A nasty piece of work. Chewing up every bit of suspense. A ticking time bomb. His predatory stalking was a masterclass in suspense.

First toying with Bob by asking for an umbrella and gradually making his presence known more and more. The kitchen scene with Rapace was nail biting stuff.

Morgan Spector and Michael Aronov played the roles of the Armenians quite well. BUT at the same time, despite putting pressure on our sparring bartenders, I felt they were a little wooden and by the end, nothing more than stereotypical foreign mafia guys. Shame.

The closing 20 minutes HOWEVER were tense, suspenseful and brilliant. Double crossing and backstabbing galore. I just wish there was more of this throughout.

I won’t divulge too much information but perceptions are changed. The slow burning tension did meander and sizzle a little too much for the 106 minute running time.

I felt John Ortiz’s (Silver Linings Playbook) role was completely unnecessary. Nothing more than a suspense catalyst. And a poor one at that.

Re-appearing when the film seemed to lull or asking rather mundane questions after a nasty bit of business had gone down. Even his covert dark alleyway rendezvouses with fellow officers led nowhere.

Merely relaying information we already knew from Big T but with a much flatter and duller delivery.

I kept hoping his character would go somewhere (Preferably out of this movie). BUT nope! Not even the final exchanges in the closing minutes were revelatory or needed. Weak.

Suspenseful, tense and brutal (in parts) but also a little predictable and long at the tooth. However, Hardy has certainly established himself in the big leagues and with performances like these, he will continue to do so.

And farewell Big T. One final – CUT TO BLACK.

3/5

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