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Recent Movies: Nocturnal Animals; Rogue One; Fences

February 12, 2017

Recent Movies

Nocturnal Animals

Three stories take place concurrently:  1)Susan (Amy Adams) is a well-off L.A. art gallery owner whose second marriage is in trouble. She receives a manuscript from her first husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) which she reads; 2)  the manuscript story is played out in which a couple and their teenage daughter run into troublesome hooligans while traveling late at night in Texas; 3)  in flashback, the story is told of the courtship and marriage between Susan and Edward.

The opening credits are used against a backdrop that is an art gallery installation display. To put it as kindly as possible, this sequence can likely only be appreciated by lovers of modern art – or those who pretend to appreciate it for the sake of social-climbing. Otherwise, director Tom Ford has created a beautiful film with a cosmopolitan vibe with fabulous set designs and beautiful background music. He also uses clever techniques to switch between storylines.

The Texas story begins with the perfect amount of suspense and tension. The trouble is that it is so well orchestrated that it becomes unbearable to watch the torment imposed on the young family. Within this sequence, Michael Shannon gives a standout performance as a no-BS law enforcer with health problems. He seems gruff but his heart is in the right place.

There’s a rather funny brief scene in the first story in which an art gallery meeting is taking place. One young woman is dressed in a way that makes one wonder if the rich really do have taste; the same can be said about another’s choice in cosmetic surgery; a third one is addicted to modern technology in one of the worst ways imaginable, sadly resembling many people these days.

While bizarre and uncomfortable at times, “Nocturnal Animals” still comes off as a film with style and skill.

RATING (out of four stars):  * * *


Rogue One

In the Star Wars anthology series, taking place just before the very first film in 1977 (which was fourth in the actual series): Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is on a mission to disable a planet-destroying device (the Death Star) that is owned by the Galactic Empire – a device that her father was forced to create.

As could be expected, the set design and special effects are breathtaking. But in fairness, without such technical superiority, the film would be bland. The story and characters are not captivating enough and occasionally, there is too much happening for the average viewer (as opposed to a sci-fi-geek) to follow without getting confused and even bored at times.

There are many scenes in which front-line soldiers for the “bad guys” are killed off in droves with an attitude that is meant to be comical. This is an old gag that cheapens life for those that are considered to be ‘nobodys’. The filmmakers could do better than this in their action scenes instead of regurgitating old crowd-pleasing techniques that have worked in the past but are now outdated.

While there were fine scenes and excitement in the beginning, these virtues were not maintained throughout the remainder of the film. There is also a very questionable use of CGI to recreate actors as they looked a long time ago (but not in a galaxy far far away). While the technology is brilliant, such usage is more than questionable.

I made the mistake of thinking that this film was the follow-up to last year’s entertaining “The Force Awakens”. It didn’t follow that film in either sequence or in quality.

RATING:   * *


Fences

Based on the play by August Wilson: in 1950s Pittsburgh, the story centres on Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) and his family and friends. Troy is a troubled soul who believes life has given him a bad deal due to his race but his big breaks might have been missed due to other circumstances including his own misgivings. This causes a lot of family tension.

The effect of the scenes in this film vary: some are quite moving and engaging while others are too long. Troy has a troubled relationship with his teenage son Cory (Jovan Adepo). At the film’s beginning, this conflict plus Troy’s inner conflict seem like promising material but during the film’s long run, both of these conflicts seem to flatten and go nowhere despite the length of time they have to resolve themselves. Such criticisms might justify a maximum rating of two-and-a-half stars. But there are enough virtues in this film to raise the rating. These include the other scenes two of which stand out.

The final scene is the perfect conclusion of all that has taken place before it. It’s quite moving and leaves a lump in the throat. The film’s greatest scene, however, takes place in the second half when Troy has a confrontation with his wife Rose (Viola Davis). Both of these experienced performers are at their peak and they play off each other superbly. If there were an award category for Best Scene in a Film, this one would certainly qualify as a nominee.

In addition to Washington and Davis, there are also fine performances from Adepo and Mykelti Williamson who plays Troy’s brother, a World War II veteran who was mentally damaged during the war.

RATING:   * * *


Upcoming Movie Reviews:  Manchester by the Sea, Fantastic Beasts, The Red Turtle, Lion, Toni Erdmann, La La Land, Hidden Figures, 20th Century Women, Paterson

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One Comment
  1. I just saw Fences today. If Viola doesn’t win best actress I’ll eat my shorts!!!

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