REVIEW: “NOCTURNAL ANIMALS” (2016) Post: Q & A ~ Tom Ford

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If you’re looking for a sequel of sorts to  A SINGLE MAN, it won’t be found anywhere in “NOCTURNAL ANIMALS”. Tom Ford’s take on this tale of redemption, revenge, love and cruelty, terrified me at times, but in all the right ways.
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NOCTURNAL AMINALS is a dark, yet stylish thriller directed by a man who knows a thing or two about style – having previously worked as creative director for both Gucci and YSL and now of course, his own design firm, Tom Ford. So to say his delving into film could have been less than stellar or have gone in all the wrong directions, wouldn’t be absurd. He could have gone style over substance, thankfully, here we get both and Ford’s perfectionism makes this one of the most powerful films I’ve seen all year.

This is really a story within a story with the perspective coming from Susan Morrow (Amy Adams), an art gallery owner who spends most of her life at home alone, with her often out-of-town husband Hutton Morrow (Armie Hammer), pursuing his ‘business’. Randomly, (so we think) Susan gets a manuscript for a novel written by her ex-husband, Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal), whom she hasn’t heard from in over 15 years and as curiosity gets the best of her, she starts reading it. Almost immediately she finds herself completely absorbed with the story, so much so, we see it as she herself ‘see’s’ it to have happened. As she continues to read, she has flashbacks to how her own relationship & marriage with Edward broke down as well as perceived thoughts that the way she is ‘seeing’ this violent thriller could maybe some type of veiled threat against her from Edward. nocturnal-animals-3

Edward’s novel provides the film with its dark soul, the story of Tony Hastings (also played by Jake Gyllenhaal) and his wife Laura (Isla Fisher) & daughter India (Elle Bamber), who run into trouble when traveling through some back country Texas roads late at night, you know the type they make movies about how not to ever drive down. It’s pretty heavy stuff to watch it all, and I couldn’t help but clench the seat while watching it all unfold, but it all plays out as essential in making this such powerful watch.
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The rest of the cast features the always scene-stealing, can-we-just-give-him-an-Oscar-already Michael Shannon, as Bobby Andes, a career best performance from Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who is truly vile, creepy and just plain terrifying as the Ray Marcus, and Laura Linney’s appearance as Susan’s mother, Anne Sutton, who even in the short space of time we see her, makes an impact.

Gyllenhaal is good here doing dual roles though playing Hastings is seemingly the much harder performance, I just feel like he’s trying these same type of thriller roles out one after another to see which one hits hardest. Amy Adams is quite brilliant and it’s this role that should garner her another Oscar nomination at the least. It seems some don’t like Aaron Taylor Johnson’s performance, probably because if anyone knows how to bring the ‘pretty’ to a film, it’s Tom Ford and Johnson along with Hammer and a few others are the ‘pretty’ to be sure. But he also knows how to bring a performance, and for me, I like it when I get surprised by one and Johnson’s did that for me.

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This is one damned good film and I’m thinking it’s going to garner itself a few award nominations.

Grade: A
@pegsatthemovies

Screening courtesy of Hammer Museum ~ The Contender Series
NOW SCREENING NATIONWIDE

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Post Q & A with Tom Ford
First off, I can’t say enough on how congenial this man is. He has been quite brilliant as not only a designer, but so far, as a filmmaker also, and yet is more than pleased to answer any and all questions posed and makes you feel as though your friends after only a few minutes conversation.

Mr. Ford acknowledged the fact that he’s been so very lucky in being able to make his films his way so far. After being in the same industry for so long (30 yrs. in design) he says it’s been nothing but a blast for him to be able to do this and he loves it for being so different.
He also notes it’s been great getting the cast he wanted as he really had to find two people who could span a 20 year time frame, and in doing so, both look it and be able to act it out. He felt Amy Adams just resonates so much expression on screen with just looks as she doesn’t speak as she reads the novel, but expresses it.
He noted that while they took some liberties with the film over the actual novel by Austin Wright, it would have been almost impossible to have filmed it exactly as written so deep a story it is. My favourite statement of his was that he wants you to remember this film..not just one day after you see..not just a few weeks later..but still be thinking about a year later and remember how it made you think and feel.
I think he will get his wish on that one. 🙂

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REVIEW: “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES” (2016) Lionsgate

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Featuring a talented, mostly younger British cast of actors that I truly like and admire, I must admit I have been looking forward to this take on Jane Austen/Seth Grahame-Smith’s mash-up of “Pride and Predjudice and Zombies” for some time now. And yes, it delivers – if of course what you are looking for is a sure-fun little take on an iconic story. Here the zombie apocalypse has landed in the middle of Austen’s prim and proper story, including the now-famous attraction between Elizabeth Bennett (Lily James) and Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley).

Anyone expecting the seriousness of Ms. Austen’s 1813 novel will be disappointed ~ hence the title should have provided a pretty solid hint of that to most. While her characters and general story line act as a structure here, I expect most critics to destroy this one because it’s made simply for fun, not for art.
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Of course, any Pride and Prejudice spin-off ~ even one with zombies ~ must pay meticulous homage to Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. In this versions, it turns out that Elizabeth and her four sisters are highly trained warriors raised to survive and fight against the undead. Mr. Darcy is billed as a zombie hunter and protector of Mr. Bingley, the rich bachelor hooked on Jane Bennett. We follow suit on the original story as things are still made topsy-turvy by the devious Mr. Wickham, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and especially the flamboyant Parson Collins. The interactions between the characters juggle between loyalty, romantic attraction, emotional chaos and hand-to-hand combat – with just enough comedic elements that most viewers will find plenty of opportunities to get some good laughs in. Make no mistake though, this is no ‘Walking Dead’ rip-off and it’s nowhere near as gory with it’s details.

Lily James and Bella Heathcote in Screen Gems' PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES.

Lily James and Bella Heathcote in Screen Gems’ PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES.


And yes, this talented cast is all in. They play it mostly straight to achieve the balance between somber and silly. Lily James and Sam Riley again, are both fun to watch as Elizabeth and Darcy. They are the film’s best fighters with both swords and words. Jane (Bella Heathcoate) is “the pretty one”, who is wooed by the simply stunning Douglas Booth as Mr. Bingley.
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Lena Headey makes an impression in her limited screen time as an eye-patched Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and Jack Huston is well cast as the devious Mr. Wickham. Screen veterans Charles Dance and Sally Phillips take on the role of parents to the five Bennett daughters, but it’s Matt Smith, who turns the film fun with his comedic timing and his unconventional twist on the oddball Parson Collins, who pretty much steals each of his scenes.
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Even though this entertaining film offers plenty of fun with laughs, action and romance, I am hoping it doesn’t kick off a new zombie-adaptation trend as that would truly get annoying and mundane. Personally, I just like to be entertained, even sometimes in the silliest ways like this film did for me.

Grade: C+
@pegsatthemovies

Nationwide release on Friday, February 5, 2016