Time: 119 Minutes Cast:
Andrea Riseborough as Leslie “Lee” Rowlands
Allison Janney as Nancy
Marc Maron as Sweeney
Andre Royo as Royal
Owen Teague as James
Stephen Root as Dutch
James Landry Hebert as Pete Director: Michael Morris
A single mother turns to alcoholism after using up all the prize money she received after winning the lottery. She soon finds the chance to turn her life around when a motel owner offers her a job.
Recently there’s been increased attention put onto To Leslie. To give some backstory, in January, lots of A list actors including Cate Blanchett, Gwyneth Paltrow and Edward Norton were lauding Andrea Riseborough’s performance in a smaller movie called To Leslie, even pushing for her to get nominated at the Oscars. Surely enough, the biggest surprise at the most recent Oscars nominations was Riseborough being among the 5 nominated for Best Actress. Regardless, I decided to watch the movie without thinking too much about the awards. I’d say that overall it’s a decent movie, that is helped by great performances.
To Leslie is yet another character study about a struggling addict and there really isn’t anything new about this one. The writing has its issues with some clunky dialogue, cliched conflicts and arguments, and some pacing issues, especially in the first hour. The first half seemed like even more of the white poverty porn which we’ve seen a lot of, and it was a real slog to get through (and not in a good way). However, at the point where Marc Maron’s character is introduced into the plot, it picked up for me. A lot more humanity is on display, and I was more engaged with the story and characters. The ending might be a bit cliché, but it still hits in the way that it was intending to.
This is very much an actor’s movie. To Leslie really served as an acting showcase for Andrea Riseborough and she’s great, really elevating the movie with her work here. She conveys so much and brings a lot of life to her character Leslie. The destructive and struggling alcoholic character has been done many times before, but Riseborough adds a real humanity to this familiar story. So yes, the hype for her performance is deserved. It doesn’t end at Riseborough, there is a good supporting cast too. Marc Maron was a surprise, and gives a nuanced, empathetic and down to earth performance as someone who decides to give Leslie a chance. Allison Janney and Owen Teague make the most of their screentime, and they sell their roles incredibly well.
This is director Michael Morris’s debut film, and it was pretty good. It is well shot and captures the setting well, and there are some good uses of music.
To Leslie is a smaller drama and character study that is familiar and predictable, but solid overall. It’s carried by the great performances, especially from Andrea Riseborough. The movie (and possibly even its lead performance) will likely remain overshadowed by the Oscar nomination controversy. I don’t think it’s a great movie, but for what it’s worth, it might be worth checking out for the acting at least.
Time: 104 Minutes Age Rating: Graphic violence, explicit sex scenes & content thay may disturb Cast:
Andrea Riseborough as Tasya Vos
Christopher Abbott as Colin Tate
Rossif Sutherland as Michael Vos
Tuppence Middleton as Ava Parse
Sean Bean as John Parse
Jennifer Jason Leigh as Girder Director: Brandon Cronenberg
Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough), an elite, corporate assassin, takes control of other people’s bodies using brain-implant technology to execute high-profile targets.
All I knew about Possessor (also known as Possessor: Uncut) going in was that it was a horror movie directed by David Cronenberg’s son Brandon, and that it was meant to be quite good. It was quite an experience, and I was not prepared for what I was about to watch to say the least. At this point I’d say that it is one of my favourite movies of the year thus far.
Possessor is a pretty creative movie, packed with so many ideas. What makes it particularly unsettling is that everything from the setting to the characters and the premise with corporations hiring people to possess people to assassinate targets felt dystopian. The futuristic setting is so bleak, especially when it comes to surveillance, the information age and psychic warfare, with the use of advanced technology. So that adds another level of being disturbing, and this is even before considering the brutality and shocking images you see in the movie. It really does make sense that Cronenberg’s son directed it given the body horror and sci-fi with big ideas. Cronenberg doesn’t hold your hand throughout the movie, you have to put the pieces together yourself of what’s happening. It is an hour and 40 minutes long and generally I was intrigued with what was happening. For example, even though Andrea Riseborough’s task is to kill someone essentially, she has to learn how to mimic the person she’s possessing and try to set things up in a particular way. It also shows the mental strain and effect it has on her from doing all these jobs. It is worth going into the movie not knowing too much. Possessor is very unapologetic and ambitious, and with that comes risks and sometimes some parts don’t always work out. The movie is very deliberately paced, which is good and definitely better than feeling too rushed. However, a couple scenes are a bit too slow and drawn out.
The cast were all great in their parts. Andrea Riseborough plays the assassin who overtakes bodies to kill targets, while I haven’t seen most of her work, this has to be the best performance I’ve seen from her yet. Christopher Abbott plays the person who is taken over by Riseborough to perform her job, and he was equally great. The supporting cast with the likes of Rossif Sutherland, Tuppence Middleton, Sean Bean and Jennifer Jason Leigh all play their parts very well too.
Brandon Cronenberg directs Possessor, and his work here is outstanding. This is his second film, and his first is Antiviral which came 8 years ago, and I really want to check that movie if Possessor is anything to go by. It is a visually and aesthetically stunning movie, with a great colour pallet. The strangely hypnotic, surreal and nightmarish transition sequences are outstanding too. The violence is unbelievably brutal, even to the point where I got squeamish at times. I watched the Uncut version of the movie, and it was absolutely brutal NC-17 level stuff. It’s an assault on the senses from the very first scene onwards and gives you a hint for the type of movie that you’re in for. There is one scene in particular which stands out as being really gruesome. The practical gore effects are outstanding. The synth score from Jim Williams is filled with dread and fits the rest of the film perfectly.
Possessor is a thematic, disturbing and gory body horror movie that has a lot going on with it. The cast are great, it’s very intriguing, and Brandon Cronenberg’s direction is fantastic. It’s definitely not for everyone, the gore at the very least will turn some people off. Otherwise if you think you can handle it and are interested by it, I highly recommend checking it out. I’m interested in seeing what Cronenberg makes next, hopefully we won’t have to wait another 8 years to see it.
Time: 119 Minutes Age Rating: Violence, sexual references, offensive language & drug use Cast:
Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson
Edward Norton as Mike Shiner
Zach Galifianakis as Jake
Andrea Riseborough as Laura Aulburn
Amy Ryan as Sylvia Thomson
Emma Stone as Sam Thomson
Naomi Watts as Lesley Truman Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Former cinema superhero Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is mounting an ambitious Broadway production that he hopes will breathe new life into his stagnant career. It’s risky, but he hopes that his creative gamble will prove that he’s a real artist and not just a washed-up movie star. As opening night approaches, a castmate is injured, forcing Riggan to hire an actor (Edward Norton) who is guaranteed to shake things up. Meanwhile, Riggan must deal with his girlfriend (Andrea Riseborough), daughter (Emma Stone) and ex-wife (Amy Ryan).
Best Picture winner Birdman was a movie that I really liked when I saw it, even though I didn’t regard it as a masterpiece like most people. Given that I was rewatching plenty of movies recently to see what I thought about them on a second viewing, I decided to rewatch Birdman, and I definitely got a lot more out of it on a second viewing. Masterfully directed, written well and acted well, Birdman is for sure a fantastic film experience.
Watching it a second time, I really noticed that Birdman was written incredibly well. There are plenty of references of Hollywood and has a lot to say about art, movies, the film industry and the like. Most movies about Hollywood that reference other movies and actors existing could easily fail at this but with Birdman they somehow they managed to do it in a way that doesn’t feel obnoxious. It’s an original and weird movie for sure, I mean this is a movie where the lead character can move objects with his mind and fly (or at least thinks he can). It’s a bit of a strange and dark comedy. It’s astounding how they managed to pack so much emotion and depth into 2 hours, and it had me entertained for that entire runtime. Talking about some of the best parts about this movie or explaining why they’re so great would involve spoiling a whole lot of what happened, and honestly it’s best if you go into it not knowing much already. The ending certainly is different, very ambiguous and it’s not going to work for everyone. You really have to interpret a lot of the movie (especially the ending) for yourself.
There is quite the large cast involved here, and they all gave some great performances. While everyone does very well here, it’s Michael Keaton who is the star of the show, really giving a career best performance. The casting choice is definitely meta, since the character is a washed up actor who once played a comic book character decades ago, and is played by Keaton who once played Batman of course. However it’s not just an inside joke, Keaton gives such a layered performance and really brought this character to life incredibly well. Edward Norton is great as a character that seems somewhat based off of his persona, a very talented but volatile method actor, among Norton’s best work for sure. Emma Stone is also great as Keaton’s daughter, giving one of her best performances. There is particularly one monologue with her which was one of the stand out scenes of the movie, and that’s saying a lot. The rest of the cast are all outstanding as well, some of which include Zach Galifianakis as Keaton’s lawyer and producer (in a more dramatic role that he hasn’t really done before), Andrea Riseborough as Keaton’s girlfriend and an actress, Naomi Watts as an actress, and Amy Ryan as Keaton’s ex-wife.
Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s direction of the whole movie is present throughout, and really added a ton to Birdman. Something that is really known was that this movie is made up of a bunch of long takes, making the movie look like it was done in one entire shot, it’s truly fantastic and creative the way they navigated the camera throughout all the spaces. There are parts where the camera goes black, and you can probably tell that one shot ended there and then another shot began, nonetheless the shots go on for so long that it’s nonetheless very impressive. Emmanuelle Lubezki’s cinematography as always is truly fantastic. The music is just a bunch of drums playing, occasionally at a seemingly random beat, and it kind of oddly works for this movie.
Birdman is arguably Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s best film yet, and I loved The Revenant. With his fantastic direction, the weird and original writing, and the great performances (especially from Michael Keaton), it really deserved all the awards recognition that it received. However, I can partially see why it wouldn’t necessarily work for everyone. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I can’t really set you up for it, but I personally recommend that you watch the movie, just going into it movie with an open mind.
Time: 121 Minutes Age Rating: contains violence Cast:
Nicolas Cage as Red Miller
Andrea Riseborough as Mandy Bloom
Linus Roache as Jeremiah Sand
Bill Duke as Caruthers
Richard Brake as The Chemist
Ned Dennehy as Brother Swan
Olwen Fouéré as Mother Marlene Director: Panos Cosmatos
Pacific Northwest. 1983 AD. Outsiders Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) and Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough) lead a loving and peaceful existence. When their pine-scented haven is savagely destroyed by a cult led by the sadistic Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache), Red is catapulted into a phantasmagoric journey filled with bloody vengeance and laced with fire.
I had been looking forward to Mandy for a while, mainly because of Nicolas Cage. I do like Cage and I do think he’s a great actor but the movie itself looked good as well, from the trailer the whole look and style looked right up my alley. Even though it was being officially released online, I decided to wait in case it came to cinemas (as it was also being released in some select cinemas) as I heard it really benefits from watching it on a big screen. I didn’t even know if the theatre would come to a cinema in my city. I’m glad I waited though because watching in the cinema was one of the best experiences I’ve watched a movie in the theatre. Visually stunning and led by a perfectly crazed performance by Nicolas Cage, Mandy was one of the highlights of 2018.
Mandy is a straightforward movie with a straightforward plot, pretty much just your normal revenge story. What makes it stand out is how it is done. One of the things you really should know about Mandy before going in is that although it seems like the whole movie will be the revenge story, it actually takes a while before it happens. The movie is basically split in two halves. The first half is mainly focussed on the character of Mandy (Andrea Risebourgh), Mandy and Red (Nicolas Cage), and Jeremiah (Linus Roache) and the Children of the New Dawn. Usually a revenge movie would have the whole revenge part kick in after the first act, however with Mandy, the whole revenge part came in the second half of the movie. You do need to know that going in because otherwise you’re going to be rather bored waiting for Nicolas Cage to kill someone. I actually do like the first half, it does help set the mood and unlike most revenge movies which have one act to set up everything before disaster strikes, you get to spend more time with these characters, so that events later on would have a little more impact. The movie is 2 hours long but I can see how others would feel like its a lot longer. You just have to really have the patience for the movie. The second half kicks the pacing into high gear, as it’s really the revenge section, where Nicolas Cage goes on his revenge path and it’s just insane and entertaining. Mandy is a hard movie to pin down to a singular genre, because it’s an arthouse film, a horror film, a revenge film, it’s multiple things at once.
Nicolas Cage delivers one of his best performances here. For the first half of the movie he is pretty subdued and unassuming. In the second half however he goes into a huge Cage rage, delivering one of his craziest performances yet, and that’s saying a lot. If you’re looking for a bunch of entertaining Nicolas Cage freak out moments, you’re going to get that in the second half. However it’s not just “here’s Nicolas Cage freaking out”, his reactions actually works with the character, you aren’t just entertained by his freak outs. With that said, there are also plenty of hilarious and wonderful Nic Cage moments that some people are going to love. I can’t think of anyone else who could’ve played this role, Cage is perfect for the role. Also good is Andrea Riseborough as the titular character Mandy. She has a real presence to her and her chemistry with Nicolas Cage is believable. We don’t really learn a ton about the two characters but it’s enough. Also deserving of some praise is Linus Roache as Jeremiah Sand, the cult leader and villain of the film, his performance really worked well.
This is the first film I’ve seen by Panos Cosmatos, I know he’s previously directed a movie called Beyond the Black Rainbow but I hadn’t seen it yet. Having seen Mandy, I need to watch it soon because his direction and style is really great and one of the most distinct parts of the movie. This is a very visually stunning movie. Plenty of people have described this movie as being like a drug trip and it really does feel like that. There’s a lot of bright vivid colours, particularly red, that are very apparent throughout the film. So many parts of the film feel like a giant painting, or a heavy metal album cover. Even outside the colours, there’s some moments that really feel trippy, such as a scene between Mandy and Jeremiah, which feels really surreal. There are even some brief animated moments, which would be out of place in any other movie but it works well enough here. It is also a very bloody and violent movie, you get to see Nicolas Cage deliver vengeance. There are some extremely gratifying scenes in the second half, one of which features a chainsaw fight between Cage and someone who has a bigger chainsaw than him. Mandy also has a score composed by Johann Johansson and it’s really beautiful and sets the tone of the movie really well. It’s also his last score, and he really ended it on a great note. A lot of what is seen could be described as being “very metal”. There’s a biker gang called the Black Skulls and they look like the Cenebites from Hellraiser. If you’re a big metal fan, you’re going to have a blast with Mandy. With all the visuals and the sound, all of it is enhanced and improved by watching it in a theatre.
Mandy is definitely not for everyone, it is a really slow movie (especially for the first half), it is heavy on its direction and style over the story and it just won’t work for everyone. However it personally really worked for me, the performances (especially from Nicolas Cage) were great, Panos Cosmatos’s directing style was visually beautiful and it was such a great experience for me. I will say that if you’re going to see it, try to see it in cinemas (I know its difficult), you really get more of the experience that way. Mandy is one of my favourite films of 2018 and I’m definitely going to need to check out Panos Cosmatos’s past and future work.
Time: 116 minutes Age Rating: Violence, sexual violence, offensive language & nudity Cast:
Amy Adams as Susan Morrow
Jake Gyllenhaal as Edward Sheffield/Tony Hastings
Michael Shannon as Detective Bobby Andes
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ray Marcus
Isla Fisher as Laura Hastings
Armie Hammer as Hutton Morrow
Laura Linney as Anne Sutton
Andrea Riseborough as Alessia Holt
Michael Sheen as Carlos Holt Director: Tom Ford
The life of a successful Los Angeles art-gallery owner’s idyllic, named Susan (Amy Adams), is marred by the constant traveling of her handsome second husband (Armie Hammer). While he is away, she is shaken by the arrival of a manuscript written by her first husband (Jake Gyllenhaal), who she has not seen in years. The manuscript tells the story of a teacher who finds a trip with his family turning into a nightmare. As Susan reads the book, it forces her to examine her past and confront some dark truths.
Nocturnal Animals was a movie that I was curious about, mostly because of its great cast. I didn’t know a lot about the movie aside from that, but the cast and the premise was enough to intrigue me. I have to say, Nocturnal Animals is not only a great movie, it’s also one of the best movies of the year. The acting, the direction and the story was done excellently. Even if you don’t like the movie, there’s no denying how unique Nocturnal Animals is.
This movie has a very unique structure. This movie cuts between storylines, with the present day storyline, the novel storyline and the flashbacks with Amy Adams’s character. It seems like it had the potential to become a mess but not once do any of the scenes feel out of place. There is something intriguing about this movie that had me invested from start to finish, it’s been many days since I’ve watched this movie, I’m still processing what I watched. I will say, without spoiling anything, the ending is one that might annoy some people, I myself was confused when I saw it. It is one of those endings that you need to think about for a while to understand the intent of it. I honestly want to watch this movie again, it’s one of those movies that gets better and better the more you watch it.
The acting by everyone is absolutely superb. Amy Adams gives such a great performance, both this and Arrival shows that she really is an excellent actress. I’ll just say that her performance here is truly one of her best, and that’s saying a lot. Jake Gyllenhaal unsurprisingly is excellent, showing that he is one of the best actors working today. There are two showstealing supporting performances in thismovie. One of them is from Michael Shannon, who not only has an entertaining character to work with, but also gives one of his best performances in a while. He was so enjoyable to watch but at the same time was very compelling. The other showstealing supporting performance is surprisingly from Aaron Taylor Johnson is also great as one of the villainous characters in the novel. Aaron Taylor Johnson is for me a decent actor, but this is hands down his best performance yet, Taylor-Johnson fully embodies the character. The cast all do a fantastic job, and all deserve high praise for their work here.
The style and overall direction by director Tom Ford is done excellently. This film is shot absolutely beautifully, it’s one of the best shot films of the year. Every scene was directed perfectly. A great example was the first scene in the novel storyline, without spoiling anything, I’ll say that it was truly unsettling and intense, and Ford’s direction executed this scene excellently. If I had to mention one problem I had with the film, it’s with the opening credit sequence, which I’ll just say, was really out of place. If you watch the movie, don’t be deterred by this though, the rest of the movie is great. The soundtrack by Abel Korzeniowski was also truly great, and added a lot to the movie.
Nocturnal Animals surprised me, I was expecting great acting at the very least (which I did get) I didn’t expect this movie to be this investing and to be directed so greatly. While I do think you need to know what sort of film you’re getting into before watching it, I do recommend going into this movie without knowing a whole lot about it. That’s how I watched it and I really got a lot out of it, and the surprises were more impactful. I personally loved Nocturnal Animals, it is a very ambitious film that manages to succeed on mostly every angle. It’s one of the best of the year.