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: “THE LOFT” (2015) Universal

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The Loft

Is it bad that I just went to see this movie for the men in the cast?? I mean, Karl Urban, Wentworth Miller, Matthias Schoenaerts, James Mardsen, and to an extent, Eric Stonestreet. I was truly all in for purely the eye-candy factor. Sadly, yes, I know how shallow that sounds, and I don’t care. I meet guys all the time who tell me they are seeing a film just to see Cameron Diaz or Jennifer Lopez, Scarlett Johansson etc. naked or whatever. So this was my freebie and I’m good with admitting that. 🙂

But sadly the movie, which thinks itself a “thriller” is not. It’s basically about five close friends, “Vincent Stevens” (Karl Urban) an architect, “Chris Vanowen” (James Marsden) a psychiatrist, “Luke Seacord” (Wentworth Miller), “Philip Trauner” (Matthias Schoenaerts) Chris’s half-brother and all around drunk/drugged out mess, the last bachelor-soon-to-be married guy of the bunch, and lastly “Marty Landry” (Eric Stonestreet) trying his hand at the dramatic, though so veritably miscast here it’s painful as all he can seem to talk about throughout the film is cheating, huge breasts or wanting to screw everything that walks by even though they are always well out of his league. It’s basically a film of married guys who want to cheat on their wives with other women they deem ‘prettier’…probably the same guys I have met a thousand times or like the ones mentioned above. These guys range from the despicable, to the disturbed, to just plain sleazy. the loft 1

The five take it a step further on the advice of Vincent, to secretly share a penthouse loft in Downtown Los Angeles as a place where they can carry out their affairs and indulge themselves with drink, drugs & women all without having any credit card receipts or motel bills to get caught with. But this whole fantasy soon becomes a nightmare as it comes to a screeching halt when they discover the dead body of a woman in the loft, who is seemly unknown to some of them at least, along with some ominous words written in Latin. It’s then they realize one of the group must be involved since there are only five keys and the men begin to suspect each other of murder.

Yet somebody may be in on their dirty little secret. Or perhaps one of them has something to hide. Either way, it was hard to feel much more than boredom – and slight disgust – for any of it. the loft 4
It really is a shame to see such talented, good looking actors doing such a mind numbing and dull feature. It’s even worse for the women playing their wives. Rhona Mitra “Allison Vanownen”, who does nothing other than walk around with the air of “I’m better than all of you” attitude with her ‘bitchy resting face’, Valerie Cruz “Barbara Stevens” seems to know her husband is a sleaze but only enough to give him bad accusing looks, Kali Rocha “Mimi Landry”, who’s tiresome quips back n forth as she calls her husband Marty, ‘Tubs’ isn’t funny, Elaine Cassidy “Ellie Seacord” the diabetic wife who seems in a constant panic as if we are to feel sorry for her for this, and lastly Margarita Levieva “Vicki Fry-Trauner” Phillip’s new wife whose daddy “Hiriam Fry” (Graham Beckel) owns everything & everyone yet SURPRISE cheats constantly also..in this case, like father like son-in-law. The only actress able to offer a little heart is Rachael Taylor “Anne Morris” who plays what else in this ‘let’s treat women like trash’ film, but a prostitute. Even if her delivery of the dialogue is miserably bad. Of course it’s a thankless role requiring her to have an very unconvincing romance with James Marsden. Isabel Lucas “Sarah Deakins” is one of Vincent’s conquests, and gives one of the film’s poorest performances as she is unable to bring this character to life in any way, shape or form. This is a huge problem as much of the film revolves around her. the loft 2

While most of the cast here is capable of doing so much more, I’m especially talking to Schoenaerts here who’ve I’ve put a pin in since seeing his fantastic performance in The Drop, and I truly hope this isn’t what he’s destined for. Although when it comes to some pivotal scenes, it is impossible to take any of them seriously thanks to a few silly plot points.
One scene where it becomes clear that the wives may actually be aware of their cheating husbands is about as subtle as a sledgehammer hitting a brick wall. While the mystery unfolds to reveal what really happened, leaving the final scene a bit of a surprise, the fact that it’s impossible to care at all makes it a mute point.

THE LOFT is devoid of any real suspense or smarts. It has some plot twists and turns and I think they are meant to be suspenseful, but they are not. The characters defy any real logic as well, they are just all awful people so waiting to see what happens to them is just painful at times. And let’s be clear, you can certainly create morally bankrupt characters in a film that are fascinating, it gets done all the time, but that is simply not the case here. Sometimes I can sit through a movie like this at maybe at home home and get some enjoyment out of it, and I think that would be the perfect way to see this film actually as paying for it hurts. It wastes a decent cast and forces audiences to spend time with hateful people that spout bad dialogue. _MG_3082.CR2

From what I understand, this movie is a re-make of a Belgium mystery film of the same name from 2008 with one original cast member being Matthias Schoenaerts. I don’t know if it’s any better, but truthfully, it can’t be much worse.

Grade: C-
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(See grading scale)