Tag Archives: Amy Adams

Nocturnal Animals (2016)

1 Dec

Celebrity fashion designer Tom Ford returns to the director’s chair with his sophomore effort Nocturnal Animals. Boasting an all-star cast including Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Armie Hammer, Isla Fisher, Laura Linney, Karl Glusman, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, the film focuses on the relationship between Susan, a successful L.A.-based installation artist, and Edward, her novelist ex-husband. One day at work, Susan receives a manuscript from Edward, in which he seemingly writes himself (or at least an idealized version of himself) in as the main character of a pulpy crime novel set in rural Texas. The film follows Susan’s ever-shifting perspective as she is moved enough from reading the work (titled Nocturnal Animals) to reconcile her shady romantic history with Edward. Nocturnal Animals as a film dives into the story-within-a-story framework to show us onscreen the events Susan reads about, as well as her ever-changing mental state. The fictional and non-fictional worlds collide in more ways than expected.

Ford, a director who has taken great interest in the psychological headspaces of his characters, is at the top of his game. It’s surprising to see a director with only one film under the belt (Ford also directed the Oscar-nominated drama A Single Man) deliver such solid results. Everything about Nocturnal Animals bleeds a sophisticated and professional kind of drama; whether the on-screen events are focused on something as explosive as a rape or as subtle as a romantic dinner conversation, the film sustains hefty amounts of dramatic tension throughout.

Much of Nocturnal Animals’ success also has to go to its acting. Gyllenhaal and Shannon are both some of the best powerhouse talents working today, and they each bring enormous amounts of frantic energy to the table. It’s Amy Adams who really brings the film’s emotional core home; she has a heartfelt subtext to her complex and layered character that binds the film’s dual stories together. Nocturnal Animals also looks amazing. Shot by Oscar-nominated Seamus McGarvey (Anna Karenina, We Need To Talk About Kevin), the film displays elegant camerawork that compliments the multifaceted storytelling. Though the melodrama runs a bit too thick at points and some moments seem to serve little purpose and disrupt the narrative flow (one flashback tragically interrupts one of the films’ most suspenseful scenes), Nocturnal Animals is exactly the sort of sophisticated filmmaking hollywood needs more of.

Bottom Line: With an emphasis on story and performance, director Tom Ford creates a multi-layered and stylish drama supported by an all-star cast. 

Rating: 8/10 

Film recipe: Gone Girl + Blue Valentine + Mystic River

Arrival (2016)

16 Nov

Arrivalthe latest from director Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Enemy), adds to a recent tradition of what has been termed “the science-conscious sci-fi film.” Following in the steps of films like Interstellar and The Martian , Arrival presents us with a problem that lands squarely on the shoulders of scientists for figuring out.

Here, we have Louise (Amy Adams) a linguists university professor who has been called in by a secret military faction led by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker), because of her optimal translation skills and her previous clearance with handling government-classified areas. The reason is simple: mysterious extraterrestrial ships have been found across the globe and the US government is desperate to make some sort of contact with whoever is inside these ships in an effort to get answers before public panic sets in. Of course, communication with alien beings proves to be easier said than done, and increasing tensions between world governments escalate while the probability of finding a peaceful Q&A session fades to violence.

Villeneuve is no doubt one of the most talented directors working today and he brings a singular film adapted from a short story written by Ted Chiang. As a director who prefers subtlety over boldness, Villeneuve’s take on the alien invasion drama draws tension from the moments that aren’t shown on screen rather than those that are given to us. Most of the events are presented in minimalistic fashion (a stylistic choice that hasn’t been seen in the genre since maybe Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin?) with an emphasis on the physiological versus physical conflict within the characters. A chopped-up narrative featuring flashbacks and flashforwards adds confusion early in the film but makes its place known in the narrative later on.

Supporting Amy Adams is Jeremy Renner playing Ian, a theoretical physicist who teams with Louise in an effort to reach understanding of the extra-planetary visitors. Though both are fine actors, and give much to the film individually, the pseudo love-interest stuff between the couple feels fake and forced. Standard, sure-fire dialogue is everywhere in Arrival, where many characters’ lines feel like either direct exposition or a statement of the blatantly obvious settings. But like most Villeneuve’s work, it’s the sentiments in between the lines that becomes the most compelling. Here, we have vast thematic inklings of philosophy, language, and the nature of violence sprinkled around the obvious “don’t shoot, they are peaceful” lines that place Arrival neatly into blockbuster territory. The result is a typical story wrapped in an artful, minimized, and ideologically-heavy package.

Bottom Line: Denis Villeneuve’s latest focuses more on big ideas than it does big explosions, which might be a bit trying for viewers expecting the traditional alien invasion. Though it dives into melodrama territory a bit too often, Arrival is a well-directed piece of sci-fi that feels paradoxically both intimate and ambitious. 

Rating: 7/10 

Film Recipie: Interstellar (2014) + Solaris (2002)

The Master (2012)

27 Sep

P.T. Anderson‘s latest drama The Master, hit theaters nationwide this past weekend.  After receiving numerous awards at this years Toronto Film Festival, the film is now being discussed as an obvious contender for next years  Best Picture oscar.  When I found out it would be starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman, the Best Leading Actor winner, and Oscar nominees Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams, I was thrilled.  Being in the hands of a director with such great skills that P.T. Anderson has, there was no way this film could go wrong. Right?

Well, lets put is this way: The Master is Anderson’s least accessible film thus far, and is definitely not for everyone.  I’m not even sure who this film is for.

The Master starts out with us getting acquainted with Phoenix’s character, Freddie Quell. Freddie enjoys women and booze among many other things, but has never really adjusted to civilian life post WWII.  Ever since I saw the wonderful Walk The Line, I knew Phoenix could act, but WOW- he gives one jaw-dropping performance here.   Hoffman’s role is also very good as the cult leader of a group known as “The Cause”.  What exactly The Cause is, the movie never really says.  Instead it focuses on the relationship between these two men as they draw intimately close to one another.

Not only is the acting some of the best I have ever seen, but this film looks absolutely beautiful. Anderson got the production design spot on and the cinematography is pristine.  Every shot is stunning and framed in such a way it reminded me of some of Kubrick’s films.  Which means I would have been completely satisfied just watching this on mute with no subtitles.

But then we come to the most important aspect of any film: its story. I won’t say The Master has a bad story – because it doesn’t – but it is extremely illogical and perplexing.  There is not nearly enough explanation to what is happening on-screen, nonetheless why things are happening.  The entire thing feels more like a dreamy memory of a film rather than a cohesive one, with only bits and pieces standing out on the surface.  I felt like there was so much left out that I didn’t get, but whats even worse, there was so much that was unnecessarily added.

The Master could have been such a great film if only its story wasn’t swallowed up by its actors and visuals.

I think this is one of those films that is better appreciated the second time around, but at a dragging 137 minutes, I’m not sure I want to see this again – at least not any time soon.

 

rating 7/10