Awards Season Review (Part 2)

As I write this second piece on films nominated for awards in 2017, we are only hours away from the Oscars. As such, I’ve got a round-up of 11 more film reviews from the awards selection for you to peruse at your leisure. Let’s just get straight to it.

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I, DANIEL BLAKE

This film is testing. It’s not happy, it doesn’t have a happy ending, and its triumphs are small. It’s a very gritty film, but it is real; this film might as well be a documentary. It is well made, with perfect casting, and highlights a number of problems facing the UK’s poor such as job seekers allowance, appeals, the food bank, and a world that won’t listen. It even makes a point about how difficult it can be for women sometimes who can’t afford to buy sanitary products and other basic toiletries. It is a very honest and open film with a wonderful lead. It’s tough, but it’s good.

It’s not been Oscar nominated for obvious reasons, but it did win it’s BAFTA for Outstanding British Film of the Year and was nominated for a few others too. To top that off, it also claimed awards from BIFA and Cannes. Not too shabby really.

4 Stars

 

ZOOTOPIA

Man, I liked this film. Imagine a really good police drama with buddy cop vibes and a relationship you can really root for. Now imagine it’s an animation – hear me out – and the lead pair are a bunny and a fox. You heard me. This film is genuinely a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed it – it’s still got a great story and some lovely characters. It’s definitely not for kiddies either so it’s perfect for us grown ups. It’s an animation I’d be likely to recommend and watch over and over.

Unsurprisingly it’s been nominated for Best Animated Feature for the Oscars, Golden Globes, and BAFTAs. It didn’t win the BAFTA but won the Golden Globe so it’ll be a bit of a surprise tonight who wins. To be honest, I’d be happy for any of the animations I’ve seen so far to win.

4 Stars

 

13TH

13th is an immensely powerful documentary that genuinely holds your interest throughout. It’s excellently told and is clever with its uses of alternate viewpoints. It’s a phenomenal and thoroughly educating film that has actually moved me quite a bit. I would highly recommend this film to anyone interested in US politics, Black Lives Matter, or even just human rights or the state of America today. As a Netflix original documentary, 13th is actually available to watch immediately on Netflix, so give it a try!

It won the BAFTA for Best Documentary and is up for the Oscar tonight as well. I can’t be too confident it will win as I’ve not seen most of the contenders that have had insane reviews, so we’ll have to wait and see.

4 Stars

 

ARRIVAL

I didn’t want to see Arrival because I haven’t enjoyed most of the recent what-I-call ‘space films’ such as Gravity or Interstellar, plus I’m not a fan of Jeremy Renner. Yet I watched it and was pleasantly surprised. It’s smarter than an action film in space, and I just really strongly appreciate clever films. It got a little confusing near the end but was all cleared up, and took a more wondrous approach to space than the classic ‘bring out Idris Elba with guns’ which is nice. It’s got a beautiful score, and some great characters so it’s definitely worth spending some time on.

It’s been nominated for 8 Oscars including Best Picture, Sound, Editing, Cinematography and so on. However, it received the same number of nominations from BAFTA and only got away with a win for Sound (which it will probably receive again). The issue here is that Amy Adams isn’t nominated but Meryl Streep is. Now, kids, this is what we call a crime.

4 Stars

 

HIDDEN FIGURES

I was really looking forward to Hidden Figures for a while, and although I enjoyed it, it didn’t quite hit the mark I expected. Perhaps I wanted too much. The film was well cast and followed a greatly interesting story – a true story. I felt the film lacked punch, oomph, or maybe just a shift into a higher gear because the impact and the groundbreaking nature of the story only really hit home when the end comes, and the portraits of the real ‘Hidden Figures’ appear on-screen. My biggest issues lie in the unsupportive and uninteresting choice of music and soundtrack, the pace, and the focus.I genuinely adored the romantic subplot but felt that shouldn’t be what I wanted more of. Ultimately I wanted more Octavia Spencer.

Despite the lovely SAG win for Outstanding Cast, it fell short at the BAFTAs with only one nomination for Screenplay that it didn’t win. Tonight, it’s up for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Picture and Supporting Actress in Octavia Spencer. I’m not sure it’s up to the level of the other Picture contenders but I can see Octavia Spencer getting a win.

3 Stars

 

TROLLS

I can’t believe I’m saying this but Trolls was alright. I enjoyed Trolls. I laughed out loud at Trolls. I’m glad I got that off my chest. Obviously, Trolls is no groundbreaking documentary, or heartbreaking drama, or even a great animation. It’s only nominated for that Justin Timberlake song there’s no way you missed, but as a film, it wasn’t bad. It was a bit of fun, and the sarcastic Troll manages to balance out all the other glitter-farting, sunshine-loving Trolls with their singing and dancing. It’s never too annoying and is meta enough to keep it all at a safe level. It’s just something to cheer you up a touch.

The BAFTAs paid no attention whatsoever to Trolls, and it failed to grab the Golden Globe either. I’m not hopeful this will win at the Oscars, but hey it wasn’t bad.

3 Stars

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DOCTOR STRANGE

If anyone’s interested in why I’ve fallen out of love with Marvel, Doctor Strange sums it up. It’s cliched, it’s overly cheesy, and dumbed down, and it just seems to take excellent actors and make them appear actually quite bad. I wasn’t a massive fan of Benedict anyway, but the boy can’t do an American accent, and frankly, he’s better than this (plus his character is a massive dick, but somehow his life is great). There’s a lot of gaps, and they totally wasted Rachel McAdams. It sounds all very negative I know, but if I want to sit down and watch a clever film about neuroscience and magic, I don’t want to find the sassy cape the best part. Probably best for kids.

It’s nominated for Visual Effects tonight – which I’m not sure it will get – and lost out on it’s three BAFTA noms in Visual Effects, Production Design, Makeup and Hair. 

2 Stars

 

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS

Well. This was dark. Then again, it was also bloody good. One criticism is that there isn’t enough Armie Hammer (but then there never is), but after that, there isn’t much to critique aside from a few unimportant scenes that could have been omitted. It was an all-star cast that performed brilliantly and managed to somehow keep three timelines relatively unconfused. It’s a very interesting film and a thoroughly well laid out story. Also A+ for Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon.

Surprisingly, it’s only been nominated for one Oscar (well done Michael Shannon), despite being nominated for nine BAFTAs. Interestingly Aaron Taylor-Johnson won the Golden Globe for Supporting Actor. I don’t expect it to win tonight, but I’ll at least tell you to watch it. 

4 Stars

 

MOONLIGHT

Moonlight is a very good film, but a very hyped up film. To be fair it is right to be raved about in terms of its story, acting, and choice of soundtrack. Yet again we have a story that should’ve been told years ago, and a story that should be normal. In regard to the film itself, the acting is genuinely top notch, as is the music, and the relationship that blossoms across three chapters. There were a few things here and there that I didn’t like, the ending being one of them, but ultimately it was a very good film that I hope lays a path for more of its kind.

It’s received eight Oscar nominations including Best Picture, and I’ll be amazed if it walks away with nothing – as it did at the BAFTAs with just four nominations. I’d love to see Naomie Harris win but Michelle Williams is also up there in my favourites.

3 Stars

 

THE LOBSTER

The Lobster (or as I like to call it ‘Colin Farrell is unlucky in love’) is a strange film. Anyone will tell you that. It’s futuristic and interesting. Its story is a social commentary on our societal values of relationships above other things. The cast is an unlikely collective of some greatly underrated actors who work together seamlessly. It’s dark and full of sex, swearing, and death. Nevertheless, I actually really liked it. I liked it less toward the end (especially with a cliffhanger ending) but found it fascinating.

The film came out in October 2015 for us Brits so it’s already on Netflix despite being up for a Screenplay Oscar this evening. It didn’t win at the BAFTAs or the Golden Globes, and it probably won’t win here either, but it sure is an interesting idea to put to page.

3 Stars

 

HELL OR HIGH WATER

I really enjoyed Hell or High Water and was also just really pleased for Chris Pine because he has a lot of crappy titles to his name despite being a great (and immensely attractive) actor so it was nice. His onscreen relationship with his brother was also excellent; there was real familial chemistry there and it worked well. Jeff Bridges was obviously amazing and added even further comedy to this Texan based fast-paced crime drama. The film isn’t just a long series of bank robberies, it has heart, and is laced with emotion throughout. It’s a great film that keeps its pace and is great for immersing yourself into if you feel like getting lost for a little while.

Oscar-wise, it’s up for Editing, Picture, Screenplay and Supporting Role (Jeff Bridges). I’d say it has a good chance, but as always it’s tough competition. So far it’s failed to pick up any Golden Globes or BAFTAs, but it’s good to know that everyone agrees we should applaud Jeff Bridges if nothing else.

4 Stars

 

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Awards Season Review (Part 1)

The best, but sometimes most controversial part of January is usually the Oscar and BAFTA nominations. On the bright side of things, it’s a chance for all those wonderful films, and talented artists to be noticed for their hard work, and this year the selection has been outstanding.

I thought I’d take a look at the films I’d seen so far (hence ‘part one’), and what I thought of them. I’ve looked at BAFTA and Oscar nominations, so here we go.

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MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

Manchester by the Sea was a very harrowing film that left most cinema-goers incompetent of performing basic tasks after being so emotionally drained. One of Affleck’s best roles to date, the film makes an excellent case for new and different types of storytelling that aren’t as clear and linear as most. Michelle Williams is perfection in her supporting role, and I’d be over the moon for her to receive an award for her performance. The music is excellent, all characters have depth and stories, and the script is so gripping, it makes the length 100% worth it. 

It’s been nominated for 6 Oscars and BAFTAs including Best Actor (Affleck), Best Supporting Actress/Actor (Williams/Hedges), Best Picture, Editing, and Screenplay. Definitely deserving of the nominations, it would be good to see Hedges or Williams win, and I wouldn’t mind recognition for their editor Jennifer Lame.

4 Stars

 

MOANA

I loved Moana. I listened to the full soundtrack for a week straight and am still enjoying it now. The casting choices were spectacular, and having musical king Lin Manuel-Miranda on board certainly boosted the film’s star rating. A really fun and enjoyable, yet emotional film.

It’s been nominated for both Oscar and BAFTA’s Best Animation, and the Oscar for Best Song in the lovely How Far I’ll Go. It has a great chance at all 3, and although I’m indifferent to the awards it may or may not culminate, it’s certainly a film to get a copy of on DVD, and to enjoy over and over.

4 Stars

 

JACKIE

God almighty this was something else. Jackie is so intense and powerful. Natalie Portman does a stunning job, and so do her supporting cast of Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, and Billy Crudup. The camera work is genuinely next level, and the soundtrack is so haunting and – just incredible. A truly impressive piece of film-making that just made me so happy because of how clever, and well-crafted it was.

Portman has been nominated for both Best Actress awards, although I’d prefer she receive the BAFTA so that Ruth Negga from Loving can receive the Oscar. It completely missed out on the Make-Up and Hair category where it deserved both but received neither, yet it has a fair chance at Costume Design. I would love for it to win score but it’s tough to be up against La La Land this year so we’ll wait and see.

5 Stars

 

LOVING

Loving comes out 3rd February, and I’ll just tell you that the trailer does it no justice. I did not want to see it, but it’s a truly exceptional love story with exemplary acting from the two leads Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga. I feel I should also point out that Irish actor Ruth Negga does a flawless South American accent, and is also totally the star of the show. It’s a tough story-line that takes it’s time in being told, but makes it point gently, and leaves the audience more thoughtful than empowered; a rare but necessary affect to be felt by film.

Ultimately the film has only received Negga’s Oscar for Best Actress, and the publicly voted Rising Star BAFTA. It would be lovely to see her win, as a real, deserving talent.

3 Stars

 

LA LA LAND

You don’t need my review. At a guess, you already know about five other people who have seen it. My issue is that the hype has let it down, as it always does. La La Land isn’t for everyone because no film is for everyone, it’s impossible, and we wouldn’t need awards if it was. La La Land is for musical lovers, drama lovers, realism lovers, classic Hollywood lovers, and Damien Chazelle lovers. I am one of these people, so I thought it was great. My friends that don’t like musicals have generally not enjoyed it that much. You see what I’m saying? It’s a great film that oozes style and nostalgia. Most of the reviews are correct, but obviously it can’t win everything. So where does it stand?

14 Oscar noms, and 10 BAFTA noms. Record-breaking and generally not-too-shabby. It is deserving of the wider aspect awards like cinematography and production design. I don’t see it’s cast taking anything home, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Best Score/Song 1/Song 2. I’d also like to join in the mass of people demanding one song nomination being replaced with this song from Sing Street. Totally deserving.

4 Stars

 

KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS

I could happily talk about the studio LAIKA for hours, and Kubo is no exception to their string of emotionally run stories with beautiful animation and characters. It’s a tough story, it really is, but it’s moving, and it’s not too much to watch. It’s gorgeous, and fun, and sweet, and tells a good lesson about coping with grief. Much like Coraline, ParaNorman and Boxtrolls too, it has just the right amount of creepy. 

ParaNorman – my favourite – has previously lost out to Brave so it will be interesting to see if Kubo follows suit with Moana. It has two chances at Best Animation, but also a surprise chance at the Oscar for Visual Effects. I’m not expecting much winning, but it would be lovely if it did.

4 Stars

 

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ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY

This was another film I was mostly uninterested in, yet turned out alright. It wasn’t amazing, and Forest Whitaker was awful (just so we’re clear), but the droid voiced by Alan Tudyk is a real scene-stealer. Felicity Jones and Diego Luna are a really well-cast duo, and it’s also really great to see a more diverse cast in such a popular franchise. It’s not an amazing film, and I was disappointed by Whitaker, and the CGI reanimation of Peter Cushing, but it’s a good story, and a well-pieced together film. It’s one I’ll need to watch again to judge properly.

It actually picked up very few nominations this year, with Sound, Visual Effects, and Make-up and Hair. I’m not getting my hopes up for sound or visual effects, but who knows how they’ll choose. It is a very tough year after all.

3 Stars

 

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

The only real criticism I have for this film is the pacing; it didn’t necessarily need to cut anything, it just needed to move a little faster to keep up the more exciting pace of the beginning of the film. That, and the casting of Johnny Depp (why?). Colin Farrell was truly fantastic casting, and does so well in the wizarding world. He was one of my favourite things about the film. Of course, Redmayne was also excellent, and the casting of most other supporting roles was well done. It’s a lovely film that gives us cute and strange new creatures, and an interesting story line. It was an easy crowd-pleaser if done right, and they succeeded.

It’s walked away with nominations for Costume and Production Design at both, but also Sound, Visual Effects, and Outstanding British Film. It’ll be great to see it win anything, and I think it has a fair chance at Costume or Production Design at either.

4 Stars

 

PIPER

Piper probably slipped your mind a little because it’s only the animated Pixar short that was screened before Finding Dory, but it was charming. Oohs and aahs were audible in most cinemas as the small, and adorable little bird learned to find food, and stay safe from the sea. There’s not much to say about it other than how sweet and beautiful it was to watch. 

It’s been nominated for Short Film (Animated) by the Oscars, despite not making the BAFTA’s Short Film list. It has a fair chance, and my only opinion is that Inner Workings – the short screened before Moana – deserved to be nominated as well, but that’s a personal opinion on a very uplifting short.

 

THE JUNGLE BOOK

I won’t lie. The Jungle Book disappointed me, and made me confident that Andy Serkis’ take would be number one (to be released late 2018). It’s Jungle Book so there’s nothing to say about the story or the characters, but something about this kind of live-action remake seemed to take the magic out of it. I wasn’t swept off of my feet, and that would be fine for anything else, but this was a Disney film, and it could’ve been better. I look forward to the next one, as it has dark intentions, and a vibe of origins; it’s new and different. This was a technology-infused remake with some questionable voice casting but however made a great choice in Sir Ben as Bagheera.

It slipped under the radar for a little while, but has been recognised for both categories of Visual Effects at the Oscars. I’m not sure it’s up to facing the competition but we’ll see!

2 Stars 

 

FINDING DORY

Finding Dory is a perfect good story-line to justify such a late sequel, and the reappearance of beloved characters like Mr Ray make it a really happy film. I did enjoy the plot, and the new characters, but was particularly swayed by the whale-shark Destiny (voiced by It’s Always Sunny veteran, Kaitlin Olson). It’s just very pleasant, and cute. A bit of harmless fun from Pixar that doesn’t disappoint original fans.

I was surprised to see the Oscars leave Dory behind, and sent my apologies to Ellen on their behalf. It’s only taken one nomination for Animated Film, but probably won’t get the gold this year.

3 Stars

 

STAR TREK BEYOND

Star Trek Beyond is not written by J.J. Abrams (who wrote the first two), and that’s obvious when watching. It’s instead written by everyone’s favourite nerd, Simon Pegg. As a result, there’s a lot more Scotty, but no-one’s complaining. The plot isn’t exactly fascinating, and my attention faltered occasionally when I saw it first, but I’ll watch it again as the film mostly works around the concept of friendship within the crew. Elba doesn’t make for the greatest villain, but the newest crew member found in Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) makes up for that. 

It’s been nominated in the Oscars category for Makeup and Hairstyling, and is fairly deserving, but as I’ve already said a few times, it’s a tough competition this year.

3 Stars

“We never leave those who have loved us, for film makes us immortal”

Alan Rickman, Douglas Slocombe, George Kennedy, Garry Shandling, Ronnie Corbett, Gene Wilder, Kenny Baker, David Huddleston, Garry Marshall, Anton Yelchin, Guy Hamilton, Liz Smith, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Ron Glass and most recently, and despondently day, mother and daughter Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher. These great names are just few on the humongous list of those fantastic talents we’ve lost in 2016 excluding music legends and icons such as Prince, David Bowie and George Michael.

Nothing compares in difficulty to the daunting and near impossible task of writing a tribute or memorial in honour of someone you know, let alone someone you don’t. Whether these incredible names were good people or not, I’ll never know – and I’ll never care. What they’ve left behind for us that didn’t know them, is their extraordinary gift in the form of a great hour or two in front of a screen. Sounds meagre, but it is far from.

These skilled professionals in the art of film can provide us with hours of escape into worlds unlike our own; magical schools, ideal love stories, historical castles, ghost tales, and toe-tapping musical scenarios. They’ve been mobsters, comedians, sportsmen, voyagers, teachers, students, parents, children and even commanders of the galaxy. They’ve been everything we can’t and everything we’d never imagine. With the help of these writers, directors and producers bringing magic to life, we can be and do whatever we want. That’s what they have left us – entertainment, an escape, an ideal and to an extent, hope.

I will never forget Alan Rickman doing everything in his power to earn the affections of Marianne in Sense and Sensibility, or dare I remember his powerful and complex performance as Snape in the Harry Potter series. Who can forget the sheer madness of Gene Wilder singing his way through the chocolate factory, or his hilarious portrayal of the Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles. Sci-fi heroes I found in Anton Yelchin and Ron Glass are now memories, and the princess-turned-General given to us by Carrie Fisher will remain to me, a symbol of girl power. Whether it’s as big as the glorious musical numbers in Singin’ in the Rain, or as simple and small as the heartbreaking line “Always” in the Deathly Hallows, moments in film can last a life time – seconds, a single line, a single look, film stays with everyone.

It’s really important to remember not how terrible life will be without these people, but how wonderful it was with them in it. Usually when we lose someone, the best we really have is our own memories. With these entertainers, and creators, and with these treasured stars, the best we have is their work. We have everything they worked for on DVD, Netflix, Prime and sometimes we even have the videos left. It is always a tragedy for someone to pass, but we are so lucky to never be without their best work at hand.

I was never going to meet Alan Rickman, or Debbie Reynolds, or any of the wonderful people we have lost this year, but I was always going to treasure their films. There is nothing to prevent me from putting on their films and admiring them as much as I did when they were living. That’s the key thing here really, remembering. If we can’t push through and live as they would want us to, then the least we can do is remember them. Some stars like Carrie Fisher were excellent advocates were causes like mental health, and lead example for our daily lives, but on-screen as Leia, she also remarked always on the significance of hope.

Film is so beautiful for a mountain of reasons, but the ability to turn those we adore and look up to immortal is at the heart. We may not know them, but we will love them regardless, and in film it shall always be so, as they shall become eternal and stay by our side forever.

Finding Dory (2016)

Cards on the table, I haven’t written a review in a while. To be honest, I haven’t been to the cinema all that much this year. I did plan to review my first four films of the year all at once (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Joy, Deadpool, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) but by the time I had the time, the films had already been out too long, and they’d already been seen by everyone. Alternatively, I’ve just felt that people wouldn’t be interested. I recently saw The BFG and loved it, but decided I was content not reviewing it, knowing that most of my friends aren’t interested in that type of film – and they’re the ones who will read this.

Yesterday, however, I saw something everything wanted to see.

Yesterday I was lucky enough to witness a cinema screen full of adults all laughing and smiling together despite being complete strangers to one another. The audience were sad, worried, and downright jolly throughout, and all for the sake of a rather forgetful Blue Tang. If you haven’t yet guessed (and the title and images weren’t enough), I saw Finding Dory.

I knew there was going to be a Finding Dory film, and unlike my feelings towards confirmation of a fourth Toy Story film (which are not positive), I was looking forward to it’s release. I thought the characters looked adorable, and fun, and silly. I thought there was a very slim chance for failure, and I thought it would most likely be alright. I had no idea what would happen story-wise, or where it was going but that was fantastic. The film wasn’t just alright, it was really really great.

Dory meets some exceptional characters on her quest to find her parents. She meets a near-sighted whale named Destiny (Kaitlin Olson), who I have fallen for completely as a character – just wonderful, a Beluga named Bailey (Ty Burrell) who is a great comical touch, but most of all Hank (Ed O’Neill), the septopus; he’s one tentacle short of an octopus. Hank is Dory’s only companion for a short part of the journey, and he starts out sour to say the least. But you and I know Pixar, and Hank turns out to be kind and helpful, because who could say no to such a sweet fish like Dory?

The segments of baby Dory and her family are unbearably cute. Congratulations to whoever drew her up because she is just too cute. Equally the cuddle party of otters really made their audience swoon.

Marlin and Nemo are friendly faces that everyone’s happy to see. Along with a few other familiar characters… The story is solid, and true to Pixar style, emotional and somehow so incredibly gripping for a children’s film. It was overwhelming to see so many adults enjoying it as they did, and I’m sure many more adults will head to the cinemas with the same idea in mind.

I honestly hope as many people get to see it as possible, because although not exactly ‘unmissable’ for everyone, if given the choice I’d make sure I didn’t miss out. Finding Dory is probably everything you will expect, and in my case, possibly much more.

It’s really just lovely and I would like to meet the person that doesn’t smile at least once whilst watching what is a real smorgasbord of wonderful characters and creations. It’s a fantastic film that I encourage everyone in their right mind to watch. Four Stars for Finding Dory.

 

p.s. Make sure you watch everything; get there in time to watch one of the most beautiful shorts I’ve seen in a long time. Equally, stay through all the credits for a few Pixar treats!

 

2015 v. 2016: The Review

If you know me in real life, or follow me for some unknown reason, you might have noticed I haven’t posted in a while. I didn’t post my usual top ten films of the year, but that’s not to say I didn’t make the list. I won’t lie, I had a bad year for cinema and didn’t see nearly as many releases as I should have. I wasn’t that heartbroken to not post my top ten list for 2015 as truthfully, it wasn’t that great a list. So instead, I present to you a list of my top five films of 2015, among other highlights of the year in film (that I managed to watch). I imagine it will be a short piece, so I then intend to look into 2016 for film and what I’m looking forward to. Let it begin…

Top 5 Films of 2015

#5: Whiplash (dir. Damien Chazelle)whiplash-2-xlarge
Starring: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist
Runtime: 1h 47min

This film was released in the US late 2014, but only arrived here in the UK in January 2015. So it’s been a while since I saw it, but without checking my review I can still tell you that it was tense, stressful and it made my hands kind of sweaty. I’m also afraid of J.K. Simmons now for life, he was that good. To be honest, I’ve yet to meet someone who didn’t like this film. It really was good, and an incredible story. The narrative, editing, music and build up of tensity made this film the five star sensation it has become over the year.

 

#4: Inside Out (dir. Pete Docter, Ronnie Del Carmen)
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Starring: Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Phyllis Smith, Richard Kind, Bill Hader, Kaitlyn Dias
Runtime: 1h 35min

BAFTA and Oscar nominated, Inside Out has done incredibly well for itself in 2015, and has been called one of Pixar’s best. This is probably accurate. Inside Out made me cry like the sheer baby I am. This film is undeniably important as the first chance for children and young people alike to understand their mind and their emotions. Much like Toy Story 3, this film really hit home with the majority of its massive audience. The smallest moments of film can relate so well to so many people, making it a wonderful, yet hellishly emotional release.

 

#3: Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (dir. J.J. Abrams)
star_wars_the_force_awakens_r2_d2_rey-hdStarring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Lupita Nyong’o
Runtime: 2h 15min

I want to say that of the ten of you reading, at least 7 of you will have seen this. Hell, I’ve seen it twice. Of course this film is good; I mean really good. The cast is utterly sublime, and you know what’s kind of the best bit? The lead of one of the biggest franchises in the whole world, not to mention in the sci-fi genre, is this badass chick called Rey who will whoop your ass, and also make time for some romance, some family issues and an adorable little droid called BB-8 (both pictured for the three of you that haven’t seen it). It’s not a film that can really be measured in its own right, it belongs to the franchise and is a part of something much bigger. Regardless the film delivers, and will do extraordinarily well for years to come.

 

#2: The Martian (dir. Ridley Scott)
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Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie

Runtime: 2h 24min

A contender for one of Matt Damon’s best ever performances (albeit Good Will Hunting), The Martian is a really excellent film, and a killer for casting. When I first wrote about the film, I said that “The Martian takes on a beautiful philosophy and succeeds at ticking all the boxes for a magnificent four stars” and I still believe this. Essentially, forget about Gravity or Interstellar or any of the ‘space films’ from the past few years, and pay all your attention to the funny, heartbreaking, ABBA blasting thrill-ride that is The Martian. Trust me when I say it deserves your attention.

 

#1: Mad Max: Fury Road (dir. George Miller)
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Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Zoë Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton
Runtime: 2h

I spent a few days debating whether The Martian or Mad Max deserved first place, but ultimately, Mad Max: Fury Road was a masterpiece, and borderline (though not entirely) flawless. This was stunning to watch, I mean really beautiful. I’m the kind of person to criticize Fifty Shades of Grey for it’s bad and inconsistent lighting at the same level as its complete lack of story and general quality. So watching something so incredible and so ambitious with its colours and landscapes was a fantastic experience. The cast were superb, and the fact that Miller managed to make a 2h car chase as fun and exciting and drama-packed as he did, is bloody impressive. Hence, Mad Max: Fury Road takes the title for 2015.   

 

The TMTM Awards

Next up are a bunch of made up awards for films I saw that I want to tell you about or highlight from the past year. Feel free to fast forward to the 2016 section complete with non-made up things. (In no particular order…)

#1: Cinderella (dir. Kenneth Branagh)
Starring: Lily James, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter
Runtime: 1h 45min
CINDERELLA
“When her father unexpectedly passes away, young Ella finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and her scheming step-sisters. Never one to give up hope, Ella’s fortunes begin to change after meeting a dashing stranger” (Courtesy of IMDb)

Actual awards: 1 Oscar nom, 1 BAFTA nom (total: 6W, 21N)

Made-up awards: ‘Hellishly Heartwarming’, ‘The Most Beautiful Dress Ever Made’, and ‘Prettiest Male Lead’. With special mention for the wonderful Cate Blanchett reminding us just how great she is, while simultaneously playing the baddest stepmother ever.

 

#2: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (dir. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon)
Starring: Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke

Runtime: 1h 45min
EARL
“High schooler Greg, who spends most of his time making parodies of classic movies with his co-worker Earl, finds his outlook forever altered after befriending a classmate who has just been diagnosed with cancer” (Courtesy of IMDb)

Actual awards: 2 Sundance wins, 1 Independent Spirit nom (total: 15W, 32N)

Made-up awards: ‘Surprise of the Year’, ‘Actually a Good Teen Movie’, ‘Most Beautiful Yet Simultaneously Soul-Crushing’ and ‘Sweetest Film of the Year’.

 

#3: Big Hero 6 (dir. Don Hall, Chris Williams)
Starring: Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter, Daniel Henney

Runtime: 1h 42min
6
“The special bond that develops between plus-sized inflatable robot Baymax, and prodigy Hiro Hamada, who team up with a group of friends to form a band of high-tech heroes” (Courtesy of IMDb)

Actual awards: 1 Oscar win, 1 BAFTA nom, 1 Golden Globe nom (total: 13W, 45N)

Made-up awards: ‘A Grown Man Judged Me for Crying at This’, ‘Best Song for Immortals by Fall Out Boy’, ‘I Gave In and Bought a Plush Baymax’, ‘Generally Incredibly Sad and Beautfiul’.

 

#4: Ricki and the Flash (dir. Jonathan Demme)
Starring: Meryl Streep, Rick Springfield, Mamie Gummer

Runtime: 1h 41 min
RICKI
“A musician who gave up everything for her dream of rock-and-roll stardom returns home, looking to make things right with her family” (Courtesy of IMDb)

Actual awards: 2 noms (total: 0W, 2N)

Made-up awards: ‘Most Underestimated and Under-Viewed of the Year’, ‘Up and Comer Award for Mamie Gummer’, ‘A Pretty Great Soundtrack but Not the Best of the Year’

 

#5: The Intern (dir. Nancy Meyers)
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Robert DeNiro, Rene Russo, Adam Devine, Zack Pearlman)

Runtime: 2h 1min
INTERN
“70-year-old widower Ben Whittaker has discovered that retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Seizing an opportunity to get back in the game, he becomes a senior intern at an online fashion site, founded and run by Jules Ostin” (Courtesy of IMDb)

Actual awards: 4 noms (total: 0W, 4N)

Made-up awards: ‘This Was Actually Quite Good’, ‘Surprisingly Feminist Movie of the Season’, ‘Hooray for Adam Devine’, ‘This Film Made Me Feel Nice’

 

#6: Feast (dir. Patrick Osborne)
Starring: Tommy Snider, Katie Lowes

Runtime: 6m
FEAST
“The love life of a man as told through the meals he gives his adopted dog, Winston” (Courtesy of IMDb)

Actual awards: 1 Oscar win (total: 1W, 3N)

Made-up awards: ‘I Cried’

 

Here’s to 2016

Basically, there’s a big ole’ number of franchise pieces out this year, and about 12 video game adaptations, and a bunch of other reboots and boring action films all set for a 2016 release (apparently it’s going to be a ‘bumper year’). I’m not looking forward to a huge number of them, like Suicide Squad, Batman v. Superman, even Captain America: Civil War – I guess I might just be a little bored. I’ve already seen a few of the new films, but will be reviewing them shortly after I post this beauty. So here are a few films coming out that I’m actually looking forward to, or am at least curious…

 

The BFG (dir. Steven Spielberg)
Starring: Ruby Barnhill, Rebecca Hall, Mark Rylance, Bill Hader, Jemaine Clement

UK Release: 22 July 2016 
BFG
“A girl named Sophie encounters the Big Friendly Giant who, despite his intimidating appearance, turns out to be a kindhearted soul who is considered an outcast by the other giants because unlike his peers refuses to eat boys and girls” (IMDb)

Why:
Because it’s the BFG, and if you’re not excited then I don’t want to talk to you. It’s Roald Dahl goddamn it. Much like Matilda, this film probably deserves to be shown in museums across the country all year round. (I really hope it’s good).

 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (dir. David Yates)
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Ezra Miller, Colin Farrell

UK Release: 18 November 2016 
FBAWTFT
“The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school” (IMDb)

Why:
Again, how can you not be interested in this. This looks to be pretty good with an ace cast, and trustworthy director in Yates (director of 4 Harry Potter movies) – not to mention J.K. Rowling wrote this too. It’ll probably be good.

 

Moana (dir.  Ron Clements & John Musker)
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Alan Tudyk, Auli’i Cravalho

UK Release: 2 December 2016
M
“A young woman uses her navigational talents to set sail for a fabled island. Joining her on the adventure is her hero, the legendary demi-god Maui” (IMDb)

Why:
I’m sorry, does this not look cool to you? The Rock is in it, what more do you want. (We don’t actually know that much about it at all, but it’s all myths and demi-gods, and Disney, and apparently musical…I eagerly await a trailer).

 

Kubo and the Two Strings (dir. Travis Knight)
Starring: Rooney Mara, Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Art Parkinson

UK Release: 9 September 2016
KATTS
“Kubo lives a quiet, normal life in a small shoreside village until a spirit from the past turns his life upside down by re-igniting an age-old vendetta” (IMDb)

Why:
I have a lot of faith in Laika (Corpse Bride, Coraline, ParaNorman, The BoxTrolls,  etc.), so I just get excited whenever they announce a new feature now. This one looks particularly promising, and has an exceptional cast for an animation. I love the dark, yet wonderful stories that come from the studio, and am just as excited for Kubo. The trailer is available now, and I suggest you take a look here.

 

Ghostbusters (dir. Paul Feig)
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon

UK Release: 15 July 2016
GB
I’m not telling you the plot of Ghostbusters. Even if you haven’t seen it, the clue is in the name. I will just say that it’s a female team instead. (Source: Me).

Why:
I’m not a big fan of reboots, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t offended that someone wanted to remake something as flat-out iconic as the original Ghostbusters. I’d also be lying if  I said I wasn’t just a little bit curious. The cast is good, and there are rumours of a Bill Murray appearance as well as the IMDb suggesting appearances from Sigourney Weaver, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, and Annie Potts, all from the 1984 cast. Truthfully, I just want to know if it’s any good, or if it’s just sad and disheartening but we’ll have to wait (until July) and see.

 

Hail, Caesar! (dir. Ethan Coen & Joel Coen)
Starring: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill

UK Release: 4 March 2016
HC
“A Hollywood fixer in the 1950s works to keep the studio’s stars in line” (Ambiguous, but thanks IMDb regardless).

Why:
This looks really good, and has a fantastic cast. It’s the Coen Brothers, it’s the 50s, it’s Hollywood studios, it’s George Clooney and Channing Tatum in the same film. It’s just so promising. I will eat my hat if this turns out to be awful (and I only own one hat, so I’m very serious). Again, I implore you to watch the trailer here.

 

Star Trek Beyond (dir. Justin Lin)
Starring: Idris Elba, Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg

UK Release: 22 July 2016
STB
(The plot is still somewhat unknown to us, but it’s the third Star Trek film, which is really all you need to know right now).

Why:
The strong cast of the first two movies returns, and it’s basically the only filmd franchise I’m happy to see a third movie from this year (aside from Kung Fu Panda 3 which I forgot to write about but let it be known that I’m excited). You can view the trailer here, but know that Simon Pegg thinks the trailer sucks – which implies that the film is going to be better than the trailer suggests.

 

T2AB

So there you have it, 5 of the best films of 2015 (in my opinion), 6 more films of 2015 that deserve your attention, and an exciting 7 films to look forward to in 2016. Happy (Very Late) New Year Everyone. 

 

 

Netflix Winter Round-Up 2015

NETFLIXHEADERI’ve recently finished off three essays, a presentation, report and a research project. I’ve spent a few days in amoeba state. I watched series 6 of Archer (2015) around 3 series of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (2015) and a few odd episodes of Pokemon: Indigo League (2000) and BoJack Horseman (2015). I was able to watch a few episodes here and there because they’re all about 20 minutes long.

I hadn’t watched a film in a month or so. The past few days, I took to Netflix and said ‘sod it’, but got lucky and enjoyed all the films I said ‘sod it’ to (bar Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey (2011), which is poorly shot and overly dramatic and thus quite unwatchable). So, as I can’t afford the cinema, I thought I’d tell you about a few of the films I’ve been watching and why you might like to watch them too. Also, as the title suggests, they’re all available on Netflix UK, and I will be using their synopses to save myself time.

I forgot to mention that The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh (1977) is also available and thoroughly soothing if you can’t stop thinking about that bloody book you forgot to reference properly. Good student tip right there.

BIRDCAGE

So up first, is The Birdcage (1996) starring Robin Williams, Nathan Lane and Gene Hackman (to name a few). “Longtime gay lovers Armand and Albert feel compelled to pass themselves off as a “normal family when Armand’s son announces his intent to marry”. What Netflix fails to mention in this description is that Armand (Williams) is a gay drag club owner, and Albert (Lane) is not just his partner, but also a drag star at the club. His son hopes to marry a girl with a senator for a father, and the culture clash between two families has never been so watchable and enjoyable. Williams and Lane are absolute stars in the film, and are both comedic and heartwarming. Another big win for the film is Hank Azaria as their live-in gay butler, Agador. Agador struts around their flat in hot pants, crop tops and flip-flops. It is my favourite Azaria role ever, and he is incredibly funny in the doomed dinner scene. Not only is it incredibly interesting in terms of LGBTQ+ representation (although an adaptation of the French musical La Cage aux Folles), but it’s a wonderful story about a relationship, and their love, as well as being a fantastic and slightly outrageous comedy.

GIRLINTERRUPED

Next up is Girl, Interrupted (1999) starring Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie, Brittany Murphy and Whoopi Goldberg. “Diagnosed with a disorder, Susanna Kaysen is sent to a mental institution, where she enters the skewed world of people who truly belong on the inside”. Turns out, Kaysen is a real person who is still alive today, and Girl, Interrupted is based on her memoir of the same name, written in 1993. It’s a fascinating film, with thoroughly interesting characters supported by excellent casting. It’s sort of become a cult film via tumblr, with endless gifs and screencaps of Lisa (Jolie) in black and white to aid the soft grunge thing some blogs have going on. I don’t understand the cult status, but then I only watched it this morning. It is a fascinating film, and I did enjoy parts of it, but it’s not one I’d jump to watch again.

GOODWILL HUNTING

It’s bad, but I actually watched the first 15 minutes of Good Will Hunting (1997) a year ago, and just never finished it. Until yesterday, that is. “When professors discover that an aimless janitor is also a math genius, a therapist helps the young man confront the demons that are holding him back”. The film stars Robin Williams, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck, Minnie Driver and Stellan Skarsgård. If you haven’t seen it, you probably know the main plot line anyway, and if you don’t, watch the Community episodes that provide a great parody of the film. It’s hard not to love 90s Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, they really are great. It’s a very emotionally-driven film that’s funny, and to me, seemed to be a love story in disguise. Of course, the relationship between Sean (Williams) and Will (Damon) is central, and thoroughly beautiful to see play out on screen. It’s a gentle film in may ways, and I think a film that earns its place in IMDb’s Top 250 (#118).

MONA LISA SMILE

I loved Mona Lisa Smile (2003), and it’s cast was phenomenally noughties; Julia Roberts, Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ginnifer Goodwin, and Dominic West. “In 1953, the women of Wellesley College are measured by how well they marry – until the arrival of a professor who threatens to upend the status quo”. I didn’t know what to expect from this film because I knew nothing about it, and let’s face it, Netflix synopses are pretty vague. However, I really enjoyed it. Despite coming second in box office to Lord of the Rings in Box Office (which is fair enough, really), the film received a lot of negative criticism and has a 35% rotten rating on rottentomatoes.com but to put that in perspective, the fourth Indiana Jones movie was given a 78% fresh rating so they’re not exactly credible. Pour some water on that burn, Rotten Tomatoes. Anyway, I thought that altought Julia Roberts did not resemble the 50s era in the slightest, the supporting cast were fantastic, and the story was wonderful. Betty (Dunst) and Giselle (Gyllenhaal) steal the show with their bold characters, and carry the plot on their shoulders throughout. It’s hard to describe what I liked about the film, but I was pretty pumped after watching it – just ask my house mates and the three people I texted about it.

SAY ANYTHING

This is kind of cheating, because I’ve seen Say Anything… (1989) and I own it on DVD, but that’s because it is one of my all time favourite films, and my favourite romance ever. The films stars a young John Cusack, Ione Skye, and John Mahoney. “A budding romance between noble underachiever Lloyd and beautiful high school valedictorian Diane is threatened when Diane’s father intervenes”. Honestly, Netflix that doesn’t even cover it. This is one of the greatest 80s Brat Pack styles created, and is one of the most iconic for the scene pictured above and for the use of the song ‘In Your Eyes’ by Peter Gabriel. I’ve not met a person who didn’t enjoy this, do if you now go and watch it and don’t like it – don’t tell me. It’s a wonderful love story that gets better with every viewing. Thank God it’s on Netflix.

stelmos

St. Elmo’s Fire (1985) stars Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, Mare Winningham and Andie Macdowell. So you’d be forgiven for confusing it with The Breakfast Club, from the same year and with half the cast. Regardless, St. Elmo’s Fire is a great coming-of-age film, as “six recent college graduates wrestle with newfound responsibilities of life in the real world – between visits to their favourite bar, St. Elmo’s”. As weird as it is, I think my favourite part of this film is when Leslie (Sheedy) breaks her love triangle with Kevin (McCarthy) and Alec (Nelson), and decides she doesn’t want either of them. Please excuse the feminist in me for that. Like a lot of 80s films about teens and/or friendships, there isn’t a main event that the film follows, and truthfully not a lot happens. Yet because it’s one of those 80s films, it gets away with it and is somehow still just as entertaining and interesting. The characters are each unique and provide their own pull to the film, and the group dynamic creates enough story for a TV series. Definitely worth a watch, and probably a good starter for anyone looking to get into 1980s Brat Pack movies.

So there you have it, I should probably go outside at some point this week.

The Martian (2015)

Even I, a very poor student, couldn’t pass on the chance to see The Martian on the big screen. This is one of those films that really deserves to be seen in a cinema with surround sound and beautifully clear visuals.

I don’t want to ramble on for too long but I do want to mention Gravity (2013) here – and I’ll begin by declaring that I didn’t like Gravity. There are a lot of comparisons to be made between the two, particularly since you may be wondering why I’m sat here jumping and shouting about seeing The Martian on screen yet I didn’t even write a review for Gravity. I felt at the time that I couldn’t write the review because the onslaught of five-star reviews and calls for Oscars and BAFTAs was so intense that I just didn’t want to be the small voice in the crowd saying ‘actually, it wasn’t that good’. At this point in time though, I feel comfortable saying I didn’t enjoy it because I can explain why through comparison (and simultaneously declare my love for this film).

The reason Gravity (in my opinion) sucked was because I couldn’t find the story – I just couldn’t see the point in sitting in the cinema watching shots of space for two hours because that’s not a film. I know I’m constantly berating no-one in particular about how just actors or just shots don’t make a good film, and Gravity is the epitome of this tale. Yes it was a good acting and yes the special effects were literally out of this world (good, I know) but Sandra Bullock’s character had nothing and no-one to live for – and call me pessimistic but I just couldn’t see the point of her fight to survive, or for that matter the film.

So this is where I sort of shut up about Gravity and talk about the film I’m supposed to be reviewing, because the reason The Martian trumps Gravity in all matters is because there was a good, strong story that was totally engaging and wholesome. The characters were successfully given depth within a mere few minutes worth of screen time – so much so that I was happy and sad for them, and concerned for their safety in the story. This time round, there was something to fight for and something to believe was going to happen – there was hope.

If you haven’t yet heard the mass of glowing reviews, The Martian is an exceptional film. It is one of the best space films – that’s a technical term – I’ve ever seen, and most likely in my top five films of the year (but it’s only October). What’s more, the cast and group of characters presented are one of my favourites in a while. Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) is a well-rounded character that works really well not just in heading up her team, but in pushing the emotions of that team, of Mark (Matt Damon) and of the audience. Each team member is given a full personality and string of relationships off and on-screen which make everything that much easier to engage in. I don’t want to shoot myself in the foot and call it realistic because not only do I know nothing about space, but also the obvious point that its a film based on a book… Yet that is how it feels, and The Martian is the most immersed in a film that I have felt in a while.

One of the best things about this film, is yet again personal. I absolutely hate disaster movies. I’m not saying I hate films with disaster elements, I’m saying 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, and Poseidon are all films which really don’t float my boat, and probably actually just sink it entirely. So the thing with The Martian is that it was a tense film which put the audience on edge as freak accidents occurred and made Mark’s chance of a return home seem slimmer each time (it is Mars after all), but it wasn’t all doom and gloom and it wasn’t hopeless.

The intelligence and skills displayed by Watney should be a real ego-boost for any astronauts out there because after watching this, I know for sure I am not in the least but qualified for all this space malarkey. His character is so clever and innovative, that there is no dwelling on disaster, but instead wonderful montages of his character fixing and solving problems to disco tracks like Hot Stuff and Waterloo (the latter got a lot of toe-tapping from the audience – everyone loves a bit of ABBA). 

So lastly, perhaps the two winning features of this film, its humour and its star. I’ll begin with the humour. As I mentioned previously, it’s not a really gloomy film, and there are dozens of moments of triumph to beat the tragedies down. Watney continually jokes around and attempts to lighten the mood for himself and to keep his spirits up – but of course, the result is an audience sighing with relief and laughing at his weird dancing, posing and general comments such as “I’m going to have to science the shit out of this”. This makes the film really incredible because, in my position, I can call it gripping, beautiful, emotional but still thoroughly enjoyable and a definite for re-watching. 

This links in entirely to the star of Scott’s picture – Matt Damon. One of the first comments I made about this film after viewing was that with a different cast, this film would be nowhere near as good – particularly if it lacked Damon. He is fantastic in this film and brings the whole feature together with his hilarity, his innovative mind and his emotional depth. There is a scene in which we see Damon’s character preparing for the plan concocted by NASA and we see Watney in a new light, as he is clearly terrified. The emotion put into this scene alone by Damon made me want to weep – or hug Watney and tell him it would be okay. Regardless of how I felt, The Martian is just more proof of Damon’s consistency and quality of acting ability.

The Martian takes on a beautiful philosophy and succeeds at ticking all the boxes for a magnificent FOUR STARS.