March film preview

Ding Dong winter’s almost gone and spring is right around the corner guys, my favourite season as you may not know and as we edge closer into the young year, there are definitely a few films to look out for in the next 31 days, here a few (US release date by default).

 

Logan – released on the 3rd of March

Directed by James Mangold

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Richard E Grant, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant.

The latest film in the X-Men franchise… sort of, set in the future in an alternate reality with the majority of mutants now dead, Logan, trying to live in solitude as he cares for Professor X discovers another Mutant quite like him in a young girl called Laura and feels compelled to help her as she is hunted by anti-mutant forces.

 

Kong: Skull Island – released on the 10th of March

Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L Jackson, John Goodman, John C Reilly, Brie Larson, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz.

Drama set in 1971 as a group called Monarch discover a secretive island rumoured to be the home of mysterious creatures and decide to lead an expedition to it, discovering it to be the home of an enormous ape named Kong, as well as home to dangerous and vicious creatures called skullcrawlers, out of their depth they try to survive.

 

Beauty and The Beast – released on the 17th of March

Directed by Bill Condon

Starring: Emma Watson, Ewan McGregor, Ian Mckellan Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad.

Live action adaptation of the popular animated Disney film as princess Belle is taken prisoner by the beast in exchange for her father, but Belle befriends the staff of the Beasts castle, growing fond of her captor and vice versa, while a hunter name Gaston leads a band of people to rescue Belle and slay the beast at any cost.

 

Life – released on the 18th of March

Directed by Daniel Espinosa

Starring: Jake Gylenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare.

Sci-fi horror film set on the international space station after the crew retrieve a probe from Mars with material inside it and aim to study it as it could be evidence of life but things take a turn for the worst after the sample gains intelligence and wreaks havoc, the crew aim to survive and kill it before it can reach Earth.

 

Power Rangers – released on the 24th of March

Directed by Dean Israelite

Starring: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G, Ludi Lin, Bill Hader

Superhero action film and a re-boot of Power Rangers sort of… set around five misfit teenagers in high school as they are drawn together, discovering a mystical power and become a group of fighters called power rangers,they team up, having to face off against the evil Rita Repulsa.

 

Ghost In The Shell – released on the 31st of March

Directed by Rupert Sanders

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Michael Pitt, Chin Han, Juliette Binoche, Takeshi Kitano.

Sci-fi drama based on the anime and films of the same name and set in futuristic Tokyo, a counter cyber-terrorist operative called Major and her forces called section 9 combat hackers and criminals, though now they have to face a more ominous foe who threatens stability in the city as Major comes to question her own existence.

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Live by Night – review

Live by Night is a period crime drama set in Boston in the 1920s and 30s following Joe Coughlin who finds himself thrust into organized crime and gang life with his peers as he fights off competition from other gangs vying for money and power, the film stars Ben Affleck, Siena Miller, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Messina, Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, Miguel.

Period gangster films are a bit of a novelty these days, a time period that seems to be glorified in film but films we get about the prohibition era/20s/30s tend to all be fairly formulaic and similar and Live by Night is no real exception, a film following gangsters going about their ways, somewhat unrepentantly, which can make for awkward viewing when the film wants you to empathise with the characters despite their immoral actions. That being said, you do sort of warm to Joe Coughlin (Ben Affleck) who does do bad things, but has an inkling of good in him, making for a fairly three dimensional character rather than a generic one note gangster, who his good friend Dion (Chris Messina) comes across as, though Chris brings a pretty spirited and enthusiastic performance in the film.

The performances in the film on the whole are fairly good, Affleck doesn’t shine but doesn’t quite phone it in either, being pretty passable, while Sienna Miller pulls off a pretty fantastic Irish accent in her role as Emma, former lover of Joe, though it’s a shame she doesn’t get to do a whole lot in the film.

There’s also some well done production design in capturing the feeling of the time period for the film in terms of costumes, locales and even down to the guns used, everything looks convincing for the 20s’, whether or not you may be that engaged in the story – and to further expand on that, the story is a bit… lacklustre and didn’t quite grab me, with a fairly rushed introduction to Joe Coughlins’ life and little to nothing on his background, I couldn’t empathise too much with him, especially because of his actions through the plot. The characters seem to just go through the motions in the plot without much consequence and while the action may be fun to watch for some, there wasn’t much depth to be had, which is what Affleck seemed to be trying to go for. Though to be fair, some of the set pieces are fairly well done and the violence isn’t gratuitous or over done to the to the point of it being comical.

The plot sort of meanders on a few different areas, being set in the prohibition era and referencing it but not really being about it (a pretty fascinating period in American history mind you), things get more focused on Joe and Dion as they go about their business and it just doesn’t quite make for interesting or compelling viewing, with the characters not being that likeable or interesting, despite the era itself the plot is set in being interesting.

6/10

. Fairly dull plot

. Unlikeable characters, hard to empathise with

. Has some nice shots, set pieces

2017 Oscars reaction / my predictions reviewed

So… I didn’t watch actually watch the Oscars because I’m in the UK and don’t want to stay up until 4am with work the next day (I’ve done it before) but I know the results, somewhat expected results for the most part but I wanted to go back and compare the actual winners to my predictions because eh, why not, mostly because I want to pat myself on the back but also to talk about a few of the winners, so here goes.

Best picture

Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land  – (My prediction)
Lion
Manchester By the Sea
Moonlight – Winner

I heard there was a bit of a mix up with the winner and funnily enough, I did predict La La Land, going off general hype for it but Moonlight ended up winning it in the end, fairly well deserved.

Best cinematography

Arrival – (My prediction)
La La Land – Winner
Lion
Moonlight
Silence

Bit of a weird one, La La Land for cinematography….. I thought Arrival had it in the bag but hey, interesting choice.

Best supporting actor

Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)  – Winner (My prediction)
Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)
Lucas Hedges (Manchester By the Sea)
Dev Patel (Lion)
Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)

Scratch one for the Doc, I predicted Mahershala and he won, deserved in.

Best documentary

Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
Life, Animated
OJ: Made in America – winner (My prediction)
13th

Well this was a random prediction for me and a random correct one at that.

Best foreign language film

Land of Mine
A Man Called Ove
The Salesman  – winner (My prediction)
Tanna
Toni Erdmann

I picked The Salesman because I thought it sounded like a winner… no really. And it won, go figure!

Best actor

Casey Affleck (Manchester By the Sea)  – winner (My prediction)
Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)
Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)
Denzel Washington (Fences)

This seemed like a pretty predictable choice for me, though Gosling had a good shout, Casey Affleck winning was no surprise.

Best costume design

Allied
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Coleen Atwood) – winner (My prediction)
Florence Foster Jenkins
Jackie
La La Land

Fantastic Beasts for costume design was a no brainer to me, with some excellent production design to it in general.

Best score

Jackie
La La Land – winner (My prediction)
Lion
Moonlight
Passengers

A musical winning best score, of course.

Best song

Audition (La La Land)
Can’t Stop the Feeling! (Trolls)
City of Stars (La La Land) – winner (My prediction)
The Empty Chair (Jim: The James Foley Story)
How Far I’ll Go (Moana)

Easy win and prediction for La La Land here, no surprises.

Best sound editing

Arrival – winner (My prediction)
Deepwater Horizon
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Sully

I also got this right actually, I think I was fairly on point with the sound category.

Best sound mixing

Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge – Winner
La La Land – winner (My prediction)
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
13 Hours

I didn’t get this one right though, Hacksaw won for sound mixing, though I thought La La Land probably would’ve due to its musical nature.

Best documentary short

4.1 Miles
Extremis – winner (my prediction)
Joe’s Violin
Watani: My Homeland
The White Helmets – winner

A random prediction for me and an incorrect one at that.

Best production design

Arrival
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – winner (My prediction)
Hail, Caesar!
La La Land – Winner
Passengers

One of the stranger wins on the night, with Fantastic Beasts easily being the best for production design in this category imo, it also one for costume design so why not this?

Best original screenplay

Hell or High Water
La La Land – winner (My prediction)
The Lobster
Manchester By the Sea – Winner
20th Century Women

Ok I was a bit off for this one but Manchester is a fair win for it, an award I thought LLL would swoop.

Best adapted screenplay

Arrival
Fences
Hidden Figures
Lion
Moonlight – winner (My prediction)

Another one I got correct, well deserved win for Moonlight.

Best animated feature

Kubo and the Two Strings – winner (My prediction)
Moana
My Life As a Zucchini
The Red Turtle
Zootopia – Winner

Well I shot a bit wide of the mark here, Zootopia understandably had bit more reach and more people probably saw it…. and it was a great film so, fair enough.

Best animated short

Blind Vaysha
Borrowed Time – winner (My prediction)
Pear Cider and Cigarettes
Pearl
Piper – winner

Get this prediction right, I did not.

Best supporting actress

Viola Davis (Fences) – Winner
Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
Nicole Kidman (Lion)
Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
Michelle Williams (Manchester By the Sea) – winner (My prediction)

Okay how did I not predict this one… Viola Davis was sort of a shoe in, though Michelle Williams was great too,

Best film editing

Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge – winner (My prediction)
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Moonlight

I predicted Hacksaw for editing for this for some reason and it won, so that’s cool.

Best live-action short

Ennemis Interieurs
La Femme et le TGV
Silent Nights
Sing – Winner
Timecode – winner (My prediction)

Nope, didn’t get this one right either.

Best actress

Isabelle Huppert (Elle)
Ruth Negga (Loving)
Emma Stone (La La Land) – winner (My prediction)
Natalie Portman (Jackie)
Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

Emma Stone, La La Land and none of the films in this category were anywhere near the hype level of it, so pretty predictable winner here.

Best director

Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)
Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge)
Damien Chazelle (La La Land) – winner (My prediction)
Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester By the Sea)
Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)

Chazelle for best director was a no brainer to me, though Gibson making a comeback was a big chance too, no huge surprise.

Best visual effects

Deepwater Horizon
Doctor Strange
The Jungle Book – winner (My prediction)
Kubo and the Two Strings
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – won’t win but I’d love it to!

Predictable winner in The Jungle Book here, a story a lot of people love and a film with some great VFX.

Best makeup and hairstyling

A Man Called Ove
Star Trek Beyond
Suicide Squad – winner (My prediction)

Yes, the DCEU and Suicide Squad has an Oscar…… and breathe, I also predicted this one, the most entertaining win of the night for sure!

So 14 correct predictions in a fairly predictable Oscars night with a little controversy, I can’t believe I didn’t get best supporting actress and La La Land for best production design, really? But otherwise I think I did pretty well, here’s to another year in film in 2017, in what will hopefully be better than 2016 was and to be honest, it won’t take much to beat it!

Raiders Of The Lost Ark – review

Spielberg directs an iconic staple in the action adventure genre in Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Indiana Jones’ first adventure in which he is tasked with recovering the ark of the covenant before the evil Nazis, the film stars Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, Jonathan Rhys Davies, Alfred Molina.

Raiders Of The Lost Ark… where to start, the film is quite possibly the template to follow if you want to make an entertaining t action adventure film and Spielberg really nailed it, creating a fun, interesting character in Indy (Harrison Ford) who embodies the role of the action leading man, stoic, confident and always looking out for the ones he cares for. He’s a great character to root for and someone you want to save the day, the film has great characterization overall, clearly marking the good and bad guys with the Nazis obviously being evil, though some Nazi characters are also given dialogue and even tell us what their plans are and their side of the story. Meanwhile the supporting cast is also great, putting in some spirited performances, especially with Karen Allen who makes for a fun pairing with Indys character.

The film is a fictional period piece and has fun with its alternate history set during WWII, pitting American agents against Nazis, a silly seeming idea that is executed intelligently and creatively, as the true fact of the Nazis being interested in the occult and mysticism is expanded on, to have them search for the biblical ark of the covenant.

Raiders is just a very fun, entertaining romp for all ages, with some great, a very straightforward premise which plays out well, wide appealing humour, an iconic soundtrack and some excellent action sequences, that feeling of a central heroic character going on an adventure is captured perfectly, especially with a great, very memorable soundtrack which matches scenes to a tee. With peaks and valleys which match the more frenetic action and the slower, more dramatic moments, there are some great set pieces in the film which are actually quite tense, that rotating plane scene involving Indy and a foe and of course the iconic temple sequences that Indy goes through. Said scenes are memorable because they’re so well constructed, tense and well paced, going with the classic trope of giving the protagonist obstacles to overcome that initially seem impossible – which makes it all the more fun to watch to see how the protagonist gets past the obstacles and progresses, especially in the case of Indy who’s imperfect as a character, a morally good one but someone who doesn’t mind bending the rules a bit to get to his goal.

These set pieces are imaginative and very well crafted, pitting Indy against them and forcing him to use his physicality as well as his intellect to get past them and importantly, throughout the film there is that pervading feeling of going on adventure with nothing ever feeling too dark or gritty, something quite a few modern action films are guilty of, the film is also you know, fun, something modern action films do severely lack in general these days. Raiders, is the quintessential adventure film and incorporates all the elements of a fun action film with great action sequences, fun characters with some great performances and a engrossing story that keeps your interest from start to to finish.

9/10

. Awesome soundtrack, adds a lot to scenes

. Great performances and Harrison Ford at his best

. Great pacing, engaging plot

. Memorable, well done set pieces

Nocturnal Animals – review

Nocturnal Animals is a thriller/drama directed by Tom Ford, following an art curator in a troubled relationship, who comes back into contact with her ex-husband after he sends her a seemingly cryptic novel, the film stars Amy Adams, Jake Gylenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Armie Hammer.

This isn’t quite your typical thriller and the premise of Nocturnal Animals is an interesting one, sort of a tale of vengeance but not quite, the plot makes more sense as it goes on but initially may seem quite confusing but it follows art curator Susan Morrow, who often reminisces of the past as she seems to have doubts over her husband Huttons’ faithfulness. Susan (Amy Adams) makes for an interesting character, somewhat conflicted and thrown into a bit of a loop after her ex husband Tony sends her a novel seemingly out of the blue, more or less kicking off the main part of the story, he’s also brilliantly portrayed by Jake Gylenhaal, almost entirely in the novel that he sends Susan, which makes for an interesting turn of events. Also in the novel is Aaron Taylor-Johnson who’s pretty fantastic and does a great job at portraying a bit of a scumbag lowlife, playing opposite to the morally ambiguous Michael Shannon.

We see events taking place part in the novel and in real life, which is an interesting narrative choice but with a fair amount of time devoted to visualising the novel – as we see in Susans’ head, going back to real life can seem a bit dull in comparison, maybe a bit of a subtle commentary on novels and fiction in general in relation to the real world that we inhabit – or this is me reading into things a bit.

Generally speaking Gylenhaal represents the high calibre that the film takes on, a well shot and clearly well produced film that doesn’t quite expand enough on its story in any meaningful way unfortunately and ironically, I found the fictional story in the novel a lot more compelling and engaging than the actual story of the film, with a bit of an imbalance in the time spent in each area to the films detriment. That being said, there is an interesting subtext present in the film, with the novel from Tony possibly being some sort of message to Susan, though whether you care about that or not will be entirely based on how your react to the films premise as a whole and I particularly wasn’t that captivated, it’s an interesting high risk approach to a film narrative that can work wonderfully i.e. Big FishThe Hobbit but it doesn’t quite work that well here.

Nocturnal Animals is a curious film, with an interesting premise and a strong cast that’s mostly wasted I feel, though Amy Adams, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Jake Gylenhaal bring some strong performances and there are some good elements to the whole but the result is a fairly weak and disjointed product that didn’t quite resonate with me due to a rather bare bones overall narrative.

6/10

. Unbalanced narrative, doesn’t quite go anywhere interesting in the real world

. Feels a bit uneventful

. Has some strong performances