Nocturnal Animals (2016)

nocturnal-animals-2016-movie-poster(I’m on vacation right now celebrating my 30th Birthday! To fill the void whilst I’m away I’m posting some old movie reviews that I wrote for the blog I had before I started Often Off Topic. I’ll be back in early September.)

I don’t remember ever going into the cinema as blind as I did last week for Nocturnal Animals. I’d heard a lot of buzz surrounding the name, I’d watched the trailer (once) which didn’t give much away at all, and I knew Jake Gyllenhaal was in it. That was enough for me, and I somehow convinced my husband to come along too. I don’t know how I did it, but I have a feeling it may have been something to do with the ever beautiful Amy Adams.

Before I go into an actual review, I have to share a funny moment with you. Tuesday and Wednesday showings have a silly amount of adverts before the movie, because of the wildly popular ‘Meerkat Movies’ 2-4-1 deal. This poor couple in front of us were already there when we arrived, sat through the whole slog of ads, the 5 trailers (although we were shown the Arrival trailer twice in a row, odd) and when the BBFC rating screen came on with ‘Nocturnal Animals’ emblazoned on the left-hand side, they realised they were in the wrong screen. I hope they didn’t miss too much of Doctor Strange, because that opening scene was awesome.

Anyway! Nocturnal Animals is a dark movie split into two narratives. First, we have Susan (Amy Adams), an art gallery owner living a seemingly-perfect life in her mansion of a house adorned with staff, and a husband who sadly, is hardly ever at home. One morning she receives a parcel from her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), a manuscript for a book he’s written that he wants her thoughts on. The book turns out to be dedicated to Susan, but is a dark and twisted story, which haunts her.

Whenever Susan starts reading the book, we get to see it played out, by Jake Gyllenhaal himself and his book-wife (Isla Fisher). Their story isn’t for the faint-hearted, it’s a cruel and violent tale. Some scenes are particularly difficult to watch, and I get the feeling they were deliberately made as long as possible to make the audience uncomfortable. If that is the case, it definitely worked on me. I kept thinking to myself ‘Oh that won’t actually happen though, they wouldn’t show us that’ and then they did! I’m getting the shivers just thinking about it.

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So, whilst we see Edward’s story played out in snippets, we also go back to Susan often to learn more about her, and more importantly, what happened all those years ago between her and Edward. There’s a theme of revenge here for sure, and we know that Susan left him, but not why, or under what circumstances. It’s really well edited in these sections, the way something happens in the book that then takes us back to real life, and editing isn’t something that I normally take notice of.

Of course, I won’t give anything away, but I love an ambiguous ending. One that’s satisfying enough when taken at face value, but when you start to analyse every little detail, you begin to come up with different theories about certain elements.

I really loved this movie, but I will NOT forgive that jump scare. You can witness it for yourself, I’m not going to warn you, but it scared the crap out of the entire screen. Then I had to watch the next ten minutes from the corner of my eye in case something else happens. My poor nervous wreck of a husband now labels Nocturnal Animals as ‘that piece of sh*t movie that scared me’. He liked it of course, but he’s a bigger scaredy-cat than me!

So yes, a big seal of approval from me. Just…skip the opening credits if you can…trust me.

The Current War (2017)

the-current-war-2017-movie-reviewDirector: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

Genre: Biography, Drama, History

Runtime: 107 Minutes

Main Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon, Nicholas Hoult, Tom Holland, Katherine Waterston, Tuppence Middleton, Matthew Macfadyen, Damien Molony

Plot: Set in the 1800s, The Current War is a retelling of the cutthroat race between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse to determine whose electrical system will change the way the world works.

My Thoughts: So this is how my week has gone. Love Island has finished and I have no more distractions on an evening – huzzah! So let’s see what’s new at the cinema…oh wait. NOTHING. Did no one want to release anything at all whilst The Lion King is playing for its first week? The only thing new in my local was The Current War, a movie that was meant to be released in 2017 but got shelved because of the Weinstein scandal. I can’t say I was excited to see it but look at that cast! It was worth a go just for them.

History was my least favourite subject at school – I detested it. So the great thing about biopic movies for me is that I don’t actually know what’s going to happen! Which is terrible I suppose, but at least it made a not-so-interesting subject matter a little more exciting for me. I have to admit as well – it wasn’t until the day after that I realised the pun in the name of the movie, the ‘current’ war…no, neither me or my toddler are sleeping well this week!

I have to say though, I did enjoy the movie. It was quite fascinating the lengths that Edison went to during the race, and I had to laugh at the irony of the fact that Westinghouse years later was awarded “The Edison Award” for his work! It’s not a movie I’ll probably watch again, but it was much more interesting than I thought it would be. Solid performances all round, too!

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Best Bit: I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of seeing Benedict Cumberbatch playing an up-his-own-arse genius. I think he’s at risk of being typecast right now but when he does it so well it’s hard to criticise him for it.

Worst Bit: I did actually know about what happened to the first electric chair trial, but must have forgotten about it. I can’t imagine how it must have felt when it failed to work not once but twice!

Fun Trivia: Jake Gyllenhaal was originally cast alongside Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role, however, Gyllenhaal dropped out and Michael Shannon was brought as a replacement.

My Rating: 3 bright, shiny lightbulbs that might kill you, if you listen to Edison.

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P.S. Does anyone else think Michael Shannon looks like Ron Swanson in the poster?

Frank & Lola (2016)

frank-and-lola-movie-review-2016-posterDirector: Matthew Ross

Genre: Drama, Romance

Runtime: 88 Minutes

Main Cast: Michael Shannon, Imogen Poots, Rosanna Arquette, Michael Nyqvist, Justin Long, Emmanuelle Devos

Plot: Usually I try to sum up the plot myself but the IMDB version is so beautiful it would be a shame not to use it: A psychosexual noir love story, set in Las Vegas and Paris, about love, obsession, sex, betrayal, revenge and, ultimately, the search for redemption.

My Thoughts: Does anyone else find that their watchlist only seems to grow bigger, no matter how many movies you watch? Last year I was up to about 50 and I vowed that by New Year’s I would have watched every movie on it. I think I managed about 3, and as of right now there are 55 movies in my watchlist. Argh! Maybe this year will be my year? Anyway, I’m working my way through in order starting from the movies first added.

Frank & Lola was next, and being a 2016 release means that it’s been on my list for 3 years now. So long in fact that I can’t recall what made me put it there in the first place! Anyway, Frank & Lola is a quiet and dark little romance story, not like anything else I’ve really seen. One thing I can say for certain is that Michael Shannon and Imogen Poots put in amazing performances as two troubled individuals brought together.

The first half of the movie was captivating, I wondered what was going to go wrong next, whether the admission by Lola was completely true, and just to what lengths Frank would go to get revenge, but even though it’s only a short movie, it just couldn’t hold my interest long enough unfortunately. A beautiful little movie, but just not for me.

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Best Bit: I don’t think there’s ever been a movie or TV show where I’ve been disappointed when Justin Long turns up. Whether he’s bringing some laughs or turning up the awkward factor as is the case here, I’m always happy to see him!

Worst Bit: There’s no particular bad bit, to be honest, I just felt like the movie showed its hand too soon and my concentration drifted for the last half an hour.

Fun Trivia: Director Matthew Ross had been trying to make this film for ten years prior to its release in 2016. Imogen Poots (Lola) admitted that his dedication attracted her to the project and it was a large deciding factor in her signing on.

My Rating: 2 and a half sets of chef’s knives which, when wielded by a stern looking Michael Shannon wanting blood, are absolutely terrifying!

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