Manchester By The Sea: The tragedies of life, addiction and loss captured perfectly

‘Manchester By The Sea’ absolutely floored me. Kenneth Lonerghan has written and directed a movie that is essential viewing. Through a beautifully written screenplay and performances that felt so real like you were experiencing these events with the characters, ‘Manchester By The Sea’ is not only the best film of 2016 but a really important one too.

Our main character Lee Chandler lives a solitary life in Quincy, Massachusetts in Boston when he receives a call plunging him straight back to his old hometown Manchester in New Hampshire. We flick from the past to the present seeing Lee in a dramatically different light in each waiting with baited to breath for the revelation of what happened to him. How did this truly happy outgoing man turn into an empty shell? ‘Manchester By The Sea’ has some truly harrowing scenes that are not for the faint of heart even though it tries to balance it with some humour. I hope you decide to see it and stomach through though because it deserves it.

While you could say that overall the plot moves at a slow pace not at one point was I disinterested or bored. I truly cared about not only what happened to these characters externally but how they affected each other positively or negatively as well. This is in large part due to the mesmerising performances given by Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges and Kyle Chandler.

Casey Affleck completely transformed into his role as Lee Chandler. If ever there was a time to say that he has finally escaped his brothers shadow, it is now! The nuances of his performance was breathtaking. I can’t talk about the other character’s plot without spoiling so I will focus on their performances only. Michelle Williams broke my heart with a truly memorable scene that will stay with me forever. I can’t overstate how much Lonerghan and these actors nailed relationships between real people and how much more tragically beautiful it made the film. Lucas Hedges has a great career ahead of him with this being undoubtedly a breakthrough performance. I can’t wait to see what he does next. I imagine he has all the choice in the world after that performance. Kyle ‘Chandler’ (the irony) has impressed before in the Netflix series ‘Bloodline’ and ‘Wolf Of Wall Street’ but I think this is his best performance to date.

The cinematography was very interesting. During small conversations between small groups of characters the camera was very tight and personal but then when dramatic events would take place the camera was much further away giving shots an epic feel which only heightened the shocking scenes taking place. Jody Lee Lipes and Lonerghan did a great job capturing the feel of each scene.

The soundtrack in ‘Manchester By The Sea’ was perfect and hit all the right emotional points masterfully. Rarely am I watching a film and thinking about the soundtrack and if I am it’s because it is either distracting or expertly woven into the film with precision and care.

‘Manchester By The Sea’ is beautiful and tragic both at the same time with enough humour to stop it being a miserable drag. The film balances all of this perfectly, presenting a portion of these characters lives truthfully and honestly. I cannot express how much I want people to see this film. In an industry full of cash ins and regurgitated plots we have already seen, cinematic experiences like this need to be applauded and appreciated.

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Entertainment Fanatics Podcast #1 PlayStation Experience and YouTube Glitches

We talk about the incredible Playstation Experience as well as ongoing YouTube issues and other smaller stories.

Arrival Review: Cerebral sci-fi that hits deep emotion

‘Arrival’ is one of the best movies of the year and I don’t say that lightly. While I will not be majorly spoiling anything in this review it’s hard to review this movie without discussing its subject matter. If you already know you want to see this film stop reading now and come back after seeing it as it is best to see this movie blind.

We start with Amy Adams who has suffered a tragedy and is working as a teacher. Many unidentified objects land on Earth and having previously helped the military with some insurgents using her knowledge of language she is recruited to be on the front line of communication with the extraterrestrials. And that is all I’m going to say.

While I never felt bored or wanted the plot of ‘Arrival’ to move quicker the first act of the film does move at a fairly slow pace but it is necessary. The second act really picks up but it is the third act that literally glues you to your seat, makes you sit up and pay attention. This is very much a cerebral sci-fi, you can’t snooze through this film otherwise it will lessen both your enjoyment and understanding of the plot, particularly the third act. Overall I was extremely impressed with the twists and turns and absolutely loved the conclusion. This is a truly unique sci-fi film and you don’t see many of those these days.

One thing I have to talk about is how thought out and life like the extraterrestrials were. There are only two film that I feel do extraterrestrials right, this film and ‘District 9’. The reason both these films are so successful with making us identify and believe extraterrestrial beings is that they start with basic human emotion and work from there. It’s really effective.

Amy Adams gives quite possibly the performance of her career proving why she is an A-list actor. The subtlety and emotion she brings is riveting. Forest Whitaker doesn’t have much to do here but gives a solid performance. Jeremy Renner provides some comic relief at times which he does well but Amy Adams quite simply steals the show.

Denis Vileneuve directed ‘Arrival’ along with ‘Sicario’ one of my favourite films of 2015. I actually saw it as an Odeon Screen Unseen and from the word go the cinematography was phenomenal and that follows suit here. The most memorable shot is when we first see the unidentified object, we get a gorgeous zoomed out shot as we see the clouds surrounding the mysterious object. It’s stunning! The cinematography impresses throughout and every shot is meticulous and necessary which is why Denis Vileneuve is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with. I am very excited to see what he does next.

‘Arrival’ is absolutely one of the best movies of 2016. An intelligent sci-fi which flips the typical alien invasion plot trope on its head in the best way, a truly welcome surprise in a genre that is losing its originality. Please see ‘Arrival’ before it leaves cinemas soon.

Margin Call Review: A thrilling take on the stock market crash with an excellent script

‘Margin Call’ is an excellent drama that takes us behind the scenes of the crash of the stock market.

An Investment bank is going through a lot of people being laid off at their firm, including Eric Dale, head of risk management, and the boss of Peter Sullivan and Seth Bregman, the two employees the film mainly follows. As Eric Dale is leaving the building he hands a USB stick to Peter Sullivan and warns him to be careful. Peter gets to work figuring out what Eric failed to and discovers something alarming. What follows from there is a tense and thrilling telling of the greed and devastation that took place in 2008.

I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Margin Call’ and thought it was a pretty much perfect film but the thing that I found hard to deal with was the amount of stock market terminology that I didn’t understand. I found it quite hard to know exactly what was going on because of this but it wasn’t so damaging it bothered me too much. On the one hand I understand that if they altered it to be more understandable it would have felt unrealistic but I would have been able to follow it easier if it was.

There is a powerhouse of talent in this film including Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci, Paul Bettany, Zachary Quinto, Demi Moore, Penn Badgley and Simon Baker. Wow, that’s a lot! I fully believed their characters and cared about what happened to them. You are constantly throughout the film unsure who will still be left in the firm by the end, and who will be gone, and that is gut wrenching as the film takes time for you to connect with these characters. There are some great scenes between two or three characters with dialogue that provoke deep thought. While it is horrible to witness the greed of the higher ups in the firm, the actors show they are human and not monsters. They could have easily just played them as money hoarders and foul mouthed degenerates, which is what people want, someone or something to blame, but that’s just not the truth, the writers, director and actors contributed to a very bold decision to humanise them and they feel real.

The cinematography in ‘Margin Call’ is unoriginal but does a fine job for what it sets out to achieve. I enjoyed the scenes where characters had some gravity to them which the director deserves some credit for.

‘Margin Call’ is thrilling, and with not one scene of action or violent argument, just pure genius dialogue and that is impressive. I love ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’ but that was filled with scenes where big events or debauchery is taking place, and the fact that ‘Margin Call’ had me completely engaged the whole way through with none of that is an achievement that should be commended.

Victoria Review: A foreign indie thriller that builds suspense wonderfully

Every so often a film comes along that I want everybody to see, I want to discuss it with everyone I know and revel in the fantastic medium of film making. ‘Victoria’ is absolutely one of those movies.

Usually I would talk about the plot but the best way to experience this film is to know as least as possible. If you know you want to see ‘Victoria’ go see it now and read this review after.

‘Victoria’ is a foreign film set in Berlin and characters speak English with the German dialogue subtitled. I will admit a few times I struggled to understand some English which was a little frustrating but was never so important it took me out of it.

‘Victoria’ was filmed in one take, and I don’t mean like ‘Birdman’ with camera tricks I mean literally one take of 2 hours and 15 minutes with the camera rolling the entire time and it’s absolutely insane. This makes ‘Victoria’ relentless, never giving you a chance to breathe or relax and it fits the film perfectly.

One of the most fascinating things about ‘Victoria’ is how they blurred the lines between a criminal and innocent. You see these characters commiting these abhorrent crimes and yet you empathise with them and feel they had no choice.

‘Victoria’ was largely ad libbed understandably due to it being filmed in one take. I can’t wait to see the behind the scenes on the Blu-Ray and delve into how they created a near-perfect one take film.

The one issue with ‘Victoria’ that stops it from being a perfect film is the beginning. The beginning was just a little to slow for me and while there are really important scenes that affect the future I feel it could have been tightened up. I can forgive it though as it was filmed in one take I understand why it felt slow. Let me tell you though, once ‘Victoria’ puts its foot on the accelerator, it grips you in your seat and never lets go and it’s one of the best thrillers I have ever seen. 

The acting in ‘Victoria’ is astounding. The realism these unknown actors achieve in its 2hrs and 15 minute running time is truly impressive. The leads Laia Costa and Frederick Lau play Victoria and Sonne and I will be following them and very much looking forward to their future projects.

The soundtrack of ‘Victoria’ is haunting in an absolute essential way and listening to the credits really shows how the soundtrack affects the mood of ‘Victoria’ beautifully.

‘Victoria’ is a ground-breaking film that everyone should see and is unlike any other. Exceptional unique films are only getting more and more rare so please support films like this and ‘Son Of Saul’ so producers and directors have more faith in audiences’ reception of non-mainstream features.

Batman vs Superman Review: A clash of heroes isn’t always exciting

‘Batman vs Superman’ takes place at the end of ‘Man of Steel’, with Bruce Wayne witnessing the deaths of his employees and the destruction left following the fight between Superman and Zod. Bruce Wayne decides he is too dangerous to be left alone due to the unquestionable power he possesses. Clark Kent also ironically believes Batman is a reckless and violent vigilante. 

The first half of the film is an absolute mess, I felt so disconnected from the plot and the film itself, I really didn’t care about any of the characters or find the plot engaging. While the second half still retains all these issues I at least enjoyed the final action scenes. I do have to say though when Batman and Superman finally knock heads I was supremely disappointed. The action was very slow, predictable and just really not exciting. They hardly speak through it excluding the end, it just makes no sense when Superman could say one thing and easily end the fight and that is not even the worst part. The worst part is the actual reason they stop. I’m not going to spoil it but trust me, it’s really dumb.

Ben Affleck is by far the best thing about ‘Batman vs Superman’ and I was really happy he proved his critics wrong. Henry Cavill’s performance is fine playing the stoic Clark Kent. My favourite scene of Clark’s is an early one of him with Lois Lane played by Amy Adams who is actually really great in this. I was quite struck by how human and heartfelt her performance was, and it’s a real shame that the writing has her as a damsel in distress when she is so much more independent and stronger that that. Maybe I’m one of the few but I really like Jesse Eisenberg’s acting so I was very disappointed with his performance which I think had a great deal to do with the direction he was given. Jesse Eisenberg played Lex Luthor very erratic and insane. This didn’t feel like it fit and really started to annoy and frustrate me. The best Luthor I have ever seen was in ‘Smallville’. Michael Rosenbaum played Luthor so well balancing the wealthy charisma side, with the feeling that he could snap and kill someone in a second if they pushed him hard enough. The Luthor we got here just really didn’t deliver on that or a solid enough alternate version. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman doesn’t really provide more than being eye candy in and out of action which is a shame. Jeremy Irons has one or two scenes that point to something deeper between Alfred and Bruce but mainly serves as his tech sidekick which is a waste of Jeremy Irons talent.

The cinematography in ‘Batman vs Superman’ is great. There are some great shots of Bruce Wayne in his house and Batcave along with some gorgeous cinematography of Gotham and Metropolis. While as I said before I felt there was a misstep in directing in regards to Jesse Eisenberg, everybody else was fine. ‘Batman vs Superman’ is yet another offender of the soundtrack over exaggerating itself which causes major distraction. 

‘Batman vs Superman’ is so intent on setting up the future multi-verse films that it loses sight of being a tight and entertaining movie. This is a real disappointment when at the very least ‘Batman vs Superman’ could have been a really solid superhero movie. Lots of critics have said it failed because it was too dark. That is not why it failed, it failed because it is uninteresting and too concerned about future projects. What a shame considering the huge potential it had.

 

Captain America: Civil War Review: A flawed but still entertaining entry in the series

The long awaited ‘Captain America: Civil War’ is finally here in full force with all your favourite heroes along with a couple surprises. 

While trying to capture a criminal Captain America and his team cause an unexpected tragedy. The government decide they can no longer allow ‘The Avengers’ to operate as a private militarised service. Tony Stark (Iron Man) is on board while Steve Rogers (Captain America) is worried about the restrictions it puts on them. 

This aspect of the plot was thrilling with a couple great scenes of the team discussing their opinions for and against. The issue is that there isn’t enough of this and the plot gets bogged down with alternate branching storylines. They tried to fit in too much and didn’t focus on the most interesting aspects, which are although they have good intentions to help people, what about the damage they leave behind and the fact that people actually die. Whereas in previous films deaths of civilians are usually glossed over, ‘Civil War’ really wants you to feel the gravity of the consequences in the first act of the film. Unfortunately all of this is forgotten in the second act and a new antagonist is introduced that ultimately ends up being a pointless distraction. Everything this antagonist is supposed to bring out of ‘The Avengers’ they could have discovered on their own. There are also noticeable plot holes that are never explained that make it hard to go with the action at times. 

Now let me tell you what I loved about ‘Captain America: Civil War’. While this film has by far the darkest tone in the series which I really liked, it still has plenty of humour that I completely laughed out loud at. The fight scenes are incredible. I saw the best superhero showdown I have ever seen, it was epic, hilarious and surprisingly really clever the way they used their suits and abilities to counteract each other.

The acting due to the tone and plot is quite different than what we are used to which I much appreciated. A few of the characters are dealing with some deep emotional circumstances so it is very refreshing to see them pushing themselves and portraying their characters in a different light. 

The cinematography was top notch. I never felt like the camera was moving too much so I couldn’t tell what was going on which is rare. The directing is very solid and the Russo brothers show their expertise and experience.

The soundtrack for ‘Captain America: Civil War’ is one of the best of the year with exciting music for the action along with some really touching tracks during the intimate moments between characters. 

Overall I had a really fun time with ‘Captain America: Civil War’ but when all is said and done the film has an identity crisis and throws in too much sub-plot. Does it want to be a fun popcorn flick? Or does it want to be a political thriller? While the series usually balances serious and comedic scenes really well, due to the much darker tone the contrast is more striking and noticeable. When the internal conflict between ‘The Avengers’ is the most engaging thing, why distract me with a sub-par antagonist that just doesn’t fit? As I said before though the action and humour is great, there is plenty of it and these issues are overshadowed by the fun the series is known for.

Beasts Of No Nation Review: A brutal and harrowing look at child soldiers

‘Beasts of No Nation’ addresses a sadly still relevant and tragic issue. Child soldiers. This is an unflinching look at how child soldiers are created and the motivation they are given to become one. 
The first time I found out about the existence of child soldiers was when many years ago I watched ‘Blood Diamond’ for the first time. There are only a few scenes showing this culture but it still had a profound impact on me. I was shocked that child soldiers existed. It was an eye opening and terrifying moment for me. ‘Blood Diamond’ has nothing on ‘Beasts of No Nation’ though. The feature film was adapted from the novel of the same name by Uzodinma Iweala. Cary Joji Fukunaga knew this story needed to be told in a feature film and worked with the author adapting the novel into a screenplay. Cary Joji Fukunaga also took on the role of Director and went into harrowing and disturbing detail when adapting the novel. This is not a film for the faint of heart but should still be seen nonetheless due to its message, relevance and importance.

Agu (Abraham Attah) goes from having a loving family and community around him to nothing. The film dedicated more time than I would have expected to this time but rightly so as when it is taken from him, you have been given long enough to care about these characters so when he loses them you feel that loss. Agu runs away as fast as he can until he runs into the Commandant (Idris Elba) and his battalion. The commandant gives a Agu a purpose, a family and fuels in him a reason to fight against the enemy. You can understand why Agu would follow the Commandant. The Commandant is now Agu’s father figure who cares and loves him from Agu’s perspective. Agu has gone from having nothing to something to live and fight for. The lines of good and evil are completely grey. There is just people trying to survive and doing what is necessary to do that. The journey that Agu takes from having fun as a child to a cold blooded killer is as heartbreaking as it is understandable due to the loss and atrocities he witnesses. 

The cinematography in this film is gorgeous. It was shot in Africa and it pays off. The landscape is both breathtaking and visceral, and because you are following Agu the whole time and the lens used is so crystal clear it almost feels like a documentary which is very effective. The camera is very free and hardly noticeable to be on a track so you feel like you are there holding the camera as the events transpire. 

The music for this film is spot on. Whether it’s emotion or tension that the scene is conveying the music does a great job of amping that up so you really feel it. 

Now let’s talk about the leading duo that makes me feel appalled they were overlooked by the Oscars. This is the best performance I have seen from Idris Elba and I think he does a terrific job in ‘Luther’ but he really takes it up a notch here. I’m not an accent expert but his accent worked really well and felt natural to me. He’s so magnetic, charming and inspiring on screen that you really feel the passion and bloodlust he is fuelling into these kids. He does a great job of humanising and empathising with a character that could have easily been a one dimensional stereotypical warlord character. 

Make no mistake here though. Abraham Attah as Agu steals the show. What this young actor achieves is awe-inspiring and must have been a really complex role for such a your actor to portray. Just from his facial expressions I felt his emotions and understood his motivations for what he was doing. He portrays the emotional turmoil that Age experiences throughout the film so well. Abraham Attah says he does want to act again and I am really excited to see what comes next from this amazingly talented actor.

‘Beasts of No Nation’ is an extremely hard watch but one of the few important films in 2015 that must be seen. Idris Elba, Abraham Attah and the supporting cast do an incredible job of making you feel the brutal realism of this world. The film doesn’t feel exploitative for awards at all and is genuinely set on telling a story that is unfortunately still taking place as you read this. I am so happy it has received such a great reception and created a big dissuasion because this is a hard film to sell. You will not enjoy watching this film but it is without a doubt one of the most necessary films that has been made this decade. 

You can view the trailer underneath and you can watch it right now on Netflix. Please watch it and comment with your thoughts. 

https://youtu.be/iWK5VD0MF4k

Bastille Day Review: A disappointingly mediocre action-thriller that squanders Idris Elba’s talent

I had promise for ‘Bastille Day’ and really wanted it to be a solid action thriller. I by no means expected it to be one of the best films of the year but I wanted a more suspenseful and fun film than I got.

‘Bastille Day’ takes place in Paris when a bomb goes off and a local pickpocket Michael Mason is the prime suspect. CIA officer Sean Briar catches up with Michael and in order to clear Michael’s name he works with Briar to clear his name and uncover the conspiracy at the heart of Paris before Bastille Day, a French National holiday.

The first 30 minutes of the film are the best plot wise, as all it consists of is introducing us to characters and the first incidence in Paris that is a catalyst for everything that follows. From here on though they give the game away of whose behind it way too early and it becomes really predictable. However there is one scene about halfway through the film that is unique and entertaining to watch. Michael Madsen is tasked with gaining some information in a bar and how he uses his pick pocketing skills to acquire this information is both entertaining and uniquely shot. Admittedly looking back on the scene it can feel very lucky that everything plays out the way it does but it’s still the highlight of the film. The rest of the film I wasn’t bored but I wasn’t particularly entertained either and that’s the issue.

Idris Elba (Luther) is the strongest of the cast but that’s not saying much as I was even disappointed by his performance. The American accents in ‘Bastille Day’ are pretty terrible and really take you out of the experience. It pains me to say this as I liked Richard Madden in ‘Game Of Thrones’ so much but his performance here is mediocre. The rest of the supporting cast (Kelly Reilly, Charlotte Le Bon, Anatol Yusef, Jose Garcia, Eriq Ebouaney) do a fine job but never reach any impressive heights.

Cinematography was standard with the exception of that one scene I mentioned earlier. The action scenes are shot well, while far from anything exceptional are far more entertaining than the plot. I feel the Director could have got much more out of these actors, it was very by the numbers with no nuances, nothing that provokes you to care about any of the characters. The soundtrack fit well with the film which I appreciated. It didn’t overhype the film which is really important to me. I had a fairly irritating issue with the editing also, during one particular chase scene on foot, the films shows too much of a stunt double that it becomes glaringly obvious. The worst offender was that scene and all others were not noticeable.

The writing of this film is really underwhelming. Dialogue between characters is so straight forward, the humour feels forced and falls flat. The antagonists dialogue borders on evil caricatures and that guy who is having second thoughts about their actions.

I guess I expected more with Idris Elba starring in the film following the masterpiece ‘Beasts Of No Nation’ but unfortunately ‘Bastille Day’ amounts to nothing more than a sub-standard action thriller.

Green Room Review

‘Green Room’ is a masterfully constructed horror-thriller that will shock and make you cringe from the real world visceral violence that surrounds these characters.

This is director and writer Jeremy Saulnier’s follow up from ‘Blue Ruin’, (which can be seen on Netflix) a story about vengeance. ‘Blue Ruin’ had much more locations than ‘Green Room’. Jeremy Saulnier wanted to focus on one location which apart from the prior set up he does. I was intrigued by the idea that most of the film would take place in one room and not much else, and how much he would stick to that concept and how successful it would be. While I am happy to say that most of the film does take place in the green room we do leave it from time to time. Now this is not a negative but I was very intrigued to see how far that concept could have been taken successfully which disappointed me slightly.

A broke band ‘The Ain’t Rights’ are desperate for a gig and end up at a neo-Nazi dive bar. The atmosphere when they arrive is palpable and chilling. They survive their set but just before they are about to leave they witness something they were not supposed to. They are threatened back into the green room where the tension really kicks it up a notch. The band are trapped with a regular of the bar armed with a high powered pistol with five cartridges. The plot fills you with dread, horror and violence that has never felt so brutal and realistic. What is really interesting about ‘Green Room’ is that it isn’t about the plot or characters that keeps you engaged, it is what is happening on the screen in that moment. That is also where the film lacks though. I didn’t feel like the characters or history of the location was clear enough to really get a hold of, which did make my experience a slightly confused one at times. I also feel they missed a trick in the second act that I cannot believe they did not capitalise on. Turned out I was terrified for no reason and that just didn’t make sense to me. It was perfectly set up.

I have never seen a film I would classify as a horror-thriller before but ‘Green Room’ has both elements of the tension of thriller and the progression of a horror film that it’s impossible to identify it as anything else. I can’t wait to see more of this genre by this director and others.

The directing in this film is gorgeous. All the cinematography is really claustrophobic and close up which really adds to the mood and objective of the scene. The green room is filled with graffiti that fits the location perfectly and the cinematography perfectly displays this in the background so you really feel where you are.

No one gives a bad performance here. Patrick Stewart as the owner of the bar is by far the standout with a performance unlike something we have ever seen from him before. Every time he speaks you could be speaking to someone who wants to help you or kill you, and he walks that line perfectly. Anton Yelcin delivers the strongest performance of the band while the others are ok. The supporting cast includes Alia Shawkat, Callum Turner, David W. Thompson and Mark Webber. But again this issue is more to do with the writing than their performances. The pace doesn’t allow for much character development so it’s understandable why but there needed to be a little more than is currently there. You can see character interactions that present themselves the way friends would communicate to each other, but it’s not fleshed out enough to matter much or for you to even care and connect with it. I applaud them for sticking to a 90-minute running time and not padding the film, but 10 minutes could have been added for character development and would have greatly improved your connection and empathy with the characters.

The more I thought about ‘Green Room’ the more I wanted to watch it again and see how much more information I could gather about the neo-Nazi’s and the band, which is definitely a positive. I just wish I felt I knew enough the first time round while still leaving more intrigue for a second viewing.

I really hope that doesn’t dissuade you from seeing ‘Green Room’ though. Indies like this are rare and its infinitely refreshing to see a film that is nothing like its mainstream competition. The brutality, shocks, tension and realistic violence also make it easy for repeated viewings to consistently entertain you.

‘Green Room’ is a flawed but brilliantly bone chilling and entertaining horror-thriller that will stay with you and be hungry for more from the genre.