Tag Archives: Manchester by the Sea

2017 in Review: January

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“Daddy’s gotta go to work.”

2017 has begun – and with it, my challenge to see a film a day for the duration of the year. 365 films before New Year’s Day 2018 should at least be a half decent way to watch a bunch of films that I either haven’t seen for ages or wouldn’t usually watch.

I tried and failed miserably last year, but I’m determined to make a decent go of it this time and so far, it is going pretty well. Months like this one would make it impossible to just list all the films I saw, there’s no way I can write that amount of film titles and make it interesting; so let’s try it this way.


expendablesWeek One

2017 started with a bang. We waited up for the fireworks and we watched a film. By 2am on the first day of the year film one, The Expendables, was in the bag. With a bunch of new films out that day, including Assassin’s Creed and A Monster Calls, my count was climbing nicely with, I shit you not, seven films done by the end of the day.

The rest of the week wasn’t that successful, but it honestly didn’t need to be. I had done a week’s worth of films on day one so everything from here was a bonus. A pair of Ted films and the end of The Expendables trilogy paved the way for us to start the next series on our pile of shame: The Fast and The Furious. We got through five of those movies in week one, dotted around shit sci-fi with Kill Command, a ghastly “horror” film in The Lesson and a surprisingly fun action revenge flick in I Am Wrath.

The first few days of the challenge ended with the surprisingly fun The Wolverine and the bloody awful Sisters. I’ve definitely had worse weeks.


avengersWeek Two

Back to work after the Christmas break meant no more cramming films during the day. But a new phenomenon was showing it’s head in our house. As well as the animated movies, my kid is wanting to watch the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. She’s been asking for ages to watch Avengers Assemble, so I let her. And she loved them. Now she’s going through a load of the films in the MCU, with varying degrees of success, and enjoying them for the most part. She asks for them, I add them to my count. Win-win.

A couple of Oscar-bait films with the ghastly La La Land and Manchester by the Sea early on before we finished off the last two Fast and Furious entries. A fun popcorn horror flick in the form of the silly The Windmill Massacre, followed by the cut to pieces waste of space The Bye-Bye Man. Topping them off with the umpteenth viewing of Rob Zombie’s 31.

The week ended with more preparation for upcoming sequels with the final cut of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. What a way to end the week.


xxx-return-of-xander-cageWeek Three

We have a pile of blu-rays stacked up next to the TV. It’s our pile of shame. I vowed to have it cleared by the end of January and dammit that’s what I’m trying to do. This week was all about a shit film or two at the cinema – xXx 3 the worst culprit – and banging through these films I keep buying but not watching.

In Bruges, V for Vendetta, La Femme Nikita and Captain America: Civil War filled our week nights nicely this week. With our own Nikita’s comic book film love spreading to asking for Spider-Man films, I’m starting to regret letting her watch them. But I can’t help it, I love the look of amazement on her face when she watches them. As shit as some of these films are; more for the list. Finally managed to find time to rewatch the awesome Krampus too.

A pretty productive seven days that ended with a triple-bill at the local Odeon. A family trip to see Sing, followed by Jackie and Lion that evening.


ghost in the shellWeek Four

Now things are getting complicated. It’s the first big game release of the year and I’m dying to play it. I now have to figure a way to balance playing Resident Evil VII with film watching this week. I’ve watched plenty so I’ve got some wiggle room, but this is where I got complacent last year. So a balancing act it has to be.

But a ton of MCU films in the evenings means that once the kid is in bed, it’s guilt-free xbox time! I’ve racked up an unbelievable number of films in the last few weeks, but it’s not over for January yet. For the first time in years I sat down and watched the classic Ghost in the Shell, a film that never stops being good. For the first time I watched it with the English dub and the voice work actually did more to persuade me that Scarlett Johansson will be worth watching in the remake.

This week also saw the Oscars nominations released, which gave me an enormous list of films to source and watch before the awards in a few weeks’ time. In a roundabout way, this led to chat about documentaries, which led to me rewatching (and the wife watching for the first time) last year’s Zero Days and the thoroughly depressing, life ruining 13th.

Cinema trips felt limited this week though. Although I finally got to see the outstanding Hacksaw Ridge and the thoroughly crap Denial; they were both overshadowed by last film I saw this month, the brilliant Moonlight – a film whose review I start writing the second I’m done with this.

Overall, a solid month. Saw some amazing movies and some real dross. But my count is looking good and healthy.

One month down, eleven to go.

Films seen this month: 60

Current count, as of 31st January: 60 of 365.

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Failed Critics Podcast: La La Late

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Well it seems we were a little hasty this week in recording the podcast. If only we’d have waited another 12 hours, we could have discussed the actual nominations for the Academy Awards and not just speculated. Although it doesn’t seem to matter as we were broadly correct in our predictions and round-up our thoughts in a brief news section to open the show proper (after Steve Norman hosts the long-delayed quiz finale between Owen Hughes and Callum Petch).

Speaking of delays – apologies to those of you who were expecting an episode last week. Fate conspired against us on a number of occasions when we wanted to record.

But don’t worry! Even though record-breaking La La Land was not released this weekend but seven days earlier, we still bung it in with both Manchester By The Sea and animated comedy Sing in the new release reviews. We also found time to run through some other movies that we’ve been watching of late as Steve gets creeped out by Robin Williams in One Hour Photo, Owen raves about sci-fi writer Nigel Kneale, and Callum regales us with his story of a trip to see Labyrinth for the first time.

Join us again next week for our T2: Trainspotting review, plus our usual load of shambolic nonsense.

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Manchester by the Sea

“We’re going back to Boston.” 

Didn’t think I’d be saying how refreshing it was to be watching a typical Oscar-bait film this early on in the year. Between religious period dramas and musicals, I went into Manchester by the Sea hopeful of a good film; wanting a great performance from its star; and hoping for something a bit more… I don’t know… run of the mill for Oscar season.

I know how bad that sounds. But I mean it one hundred percent as a compliment. I was really looking forward to this.

Shortly after the sudden death of his brother, quiet and reserved handyman Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) finds himself pulled back to his hometown of Manchester to take care of his teenage nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Named the moody high schooler’s legal guardian by his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) without his knowledge, the troubled janitor has to face a home he’s been avoiding for years, family and friends – including his ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams) –  he’s not willing to deal with and a kid who’s just lost his old man.

Between the pair of them, they have enough baggage to last a lifetime or two and now they’re stuck with each other. Somehow, they need to work out their differences and their demons to find a way to live together.

So yeah, run of the mill is the order of the day here.

Manchester by the Sea doesn’t do anything that Oscar chasing movies haven’t done before. Dead family, orphaned kids, quiet dude with a really dark past and they all somehow meet in the middle and have to settle their differences. It’s an old, clichéd story that hasn’t had anything new to say in years. So the way to make your film shine, the way to make it stick out, is with its performances. Your stars have to make me give a shit and that’s where Casey Affleck, a guy I’ve been a fan of since I saw him in Gone Baby Gone, shines.

Lee Chandler is a loner. He chooses to live a solitary life in a basement apartment and can barely change a bulb or go for a pint without his being a downer affecting everyone around him. The man is haunted by his past and it takes around an hour for the film’s flashbacks to tell you why. Until then, the only indication you’ve got is Affleck’s face; and boy does he put on a show.

The man wears all his emotion on his face and every second he’s on screen you feel sorry for the guy, you feel awful for him, you know the guy has been through some shit and there are no words to describe just how deep the pit in your stomach is by the time you’ve gotten to the end of the film. And it’s all Affleck’s doing. His performance is the stand out one of the season and his recent Golden Globe is more than deserved. A top rate performance and I’d like to go ahead and congratulate him on his Best Actor Oscar now, if I can.

But of course, Affleck isn’t alone here and without the support of some great talent in the form of Michelle Williams and Lucas Hedges, he’d be nowhere. Hedges’ role as the mopey teen trying not to look like a mopey teen was sublime. Perfectly encapsulating the way so many teenagers would behave in that situation, trying to not look upset, trying to be the big guy in front of his mates and letting his frustrations out in the wrong direction, every time. I mean, he’s no Jacob Tremblay, but he’s done a pretty damn fine job.

Equally as impressive is Michelle Williams as Lee’s traumatised ex-wife. I can’t imagine how tough a role it must have been, dancing elegantly between flashbacks to the days that brought her and her husband to where they are today; all the way to showing us her new life with her new family. Her moments on screen are far fewer than Affleck’s, but that doesn’t make them any less powerful or emotional. With the always great Kyle Chandler bringing up the rear as the brother not long of this world; you certainly can’t accuse this film of skimping on the cast.

Writer and director Kenneth Lonergan has put together a fine tale here, with more than enough emotional pull to satisfy even the most masochistic of weepy drama lovers. Every tear jerking trope is here for you to enjoy as Lonergan tells Chandler’s story both after his brother’s death and before with some pretty heavy handed flashback use. Interestingly, the one thing I didn’t expect was for this film to have as strong a comic edge as it had. I almost felt bad for laughing as much as I did but the man’s crisp, funny script provided the perfect amount of levity in all the right places to stop me from being a quivering mess by the time I left.

If I had to find a complaint, I would have to say it’s with the flashbacks. While poignant and necessary for the story, they felt a little overplayed and, almost criminally, didn’t define themselves from the present day parts of the film in any way except to have his brother alive in them. I’m annoyed to say that I got lost on more than one occasion, if only for a second or two, because I didn’t realise we’d skipped back a few years. But that’s a minor complaint in an overall excellent film.

Manchester by the Sea checks all the Oscar committee boxes and then some. It’s not original and it’s not going to break any records, but it is a thoroughly enjoyable film that deserves every accolade it gets and more.