Saturday, 17 February 2018

BAFTA Predictions


The BAFTA awards take place this Sunday and while once again the viewing public will have to deal with a two hour delay to watch the ceremony on BBC1, it is time to make my predictions on the winners in the categories that due to Brits being British, could throw up some surprises that we might not see at the Oscars. Plus it is nice to see Blade Runner 2049 get a bit more love and attention as it completely deserves it.

Best Film

Call Me By Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
The Shape Of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri - Winner


Outstanding Best Film

Darkest Hour
The Death Of Stalin
God's Own Country - Winner
Lady Macbeth
Paddington 2
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri


Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer

The Ghoul
I Am Not A Witch
Jawbone
Kingdom Of Us
Lady Macbeth - Winner


Film Not In The English Language

Elle
First They Killed My Father
The Handmaiden - Winner
Loveless
The Salesman


Documentary

City Of Ghosts
I Am Not Your Negro - Winner
Icarus
An Inconvenient Sequel
Jane


Animated Film

Coco - Winner
Loving Vincent
My Life As A Courgette


Director

Guillermo Del Toro - The Shape Of Water
Luca Guadagnino - Call Me By Your Name
Martin McDonagh - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Christopher Nolan - Dunkirk - Winner
Denis Villeneuve - Blade Runner 2049


Original Screenplay

Get Out
I, Tonya
Lady Bird
The Shape Of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri - Winner


Adapted Screenplay

Call Me By Your Name - Winner
The Death Of Stalin
Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool
Molly's Game
Paddington 2


Leading Actress

Annette Bening - Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool
Sally Hawkins - The Shape Of Water - Winner
Frances McDormand - Three Billboards
Margot Robbie - I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan - Lady Bird


Leading Actor

Jamie Bell - Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool
Timothee Chalamet - Call Me By Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis - Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya - Get Out
Gary Oldman - Darkest Hour - Winner


Supporting Actress

Alison Janney - I, Tonya
Lesley Manville - Phantom Thread - Winner
Laurie Metcalf - Lady Bird
Kristin Scott Thomas - Darkest Hour
Octavia Spencer - The Shape Of Water


Supporting Actor

Willem Dafoe - The Florida Project
Hugh Grant - Paddington 2
Woody Harrelson - Three Billboards
Christopher Plummer - All The Money In The World
Sam Rockwell - Three Billboards - Winner


Original Music

Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Phantom Thread
The Shape Of Water - Winner


Cinematography

Blade Runner 2049 - Winner
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
The Shape Of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri


Editing

Baby Driver - Winner
Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
The Shape Of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri


Production Design

Beauty And The Beast
Blade Runner 2049 - Winner
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
The Shape Of Water


Costume Design

Beauty And The Beast
Darkest Hour
I, Tonya
Phantom Thread - Winner
The Shape Of Water


Make Up & Hair

Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour - Winner
I, Tonya
Victoria & Abdul
Wonder


Sound

Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk - Winner
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi


Special Visual Effects

Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
The Shape Of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War For The Planet Of The Apes - Winner

EE Rising Star Award

Timothee Chalamet
Daniel Kaluuya - Winner
Josh O'Connor
Florence Pugh
Tessa Thompson

Black Panther - review



The road to Avengers: Infinity War marches on with the Marvel Studios' 18th film since the Marvel Cinematic Universe began with Iron Man ten years ago in 2008.
With 18 films under their belts, it could be easy for Marvel to rest on their laurels and produce carbon copies of their greatest hits time and time again. Instead they are taking bigger and bigger risks.
After all, this is the company that gave us a movie starring a talking raccoon and a tree monster and a Flash Gordon-esque Thor sequel from the director of What We Do In The Shadows.
There are only two things they are still to achieve:
1) We still don't have a female-led solo movie yet. We have to wait till 2019 and Captain Marvel for that, and is the only thing that DC can claim they have bettered Marvel at.
2) A MCU origin film that doesn't end with two CGI characters beating the crap out of each other.
While Black Panther might not buck the trend in this department, it represents a huge leap forward in other ways and could be one of the most significant cultural events in Hollywood.
Writer-director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) brings Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa back to his home country of Wakanda for his coronation as King and take on the mantle of Black Panther following his father's death in Captain America: Civil War.
To tell this story, Coogler has assembled an incredible cast of veterans, rising stars and two "Tolkien" white guys. It is truly an embarrassment of riches that include Oscar winners Forest Whitaker & Lupita N'Yongo, nominees Angela Bassett & Daniel Kayuula and Emmy winner Sterling K. Brown.
It is impossible to overstate how important this moment in cinema could be. To have so many people of colour in the leading roles in a mainstream movie outside of Madea marks a welcome change and not only that, it passes the Bechdel Test with flying colours. The four leading women are all strong, independent queens, warriors, spies and inventors who are not sidelined in a wasted romantic subplot.
All this looks to deliver a bumper box office weekend as the audience, often underserved by Hollywood, come out in force. It's just a shame that the final product doesn't quite live up to the hype, instead coming in around mid-tier Marvel and plays out like a standard superhero origin tale.
The early signs are promising with the first half playing out like a Bond movie with Boseman as the gentlemen spy supplied with Vibranium powered gadgets by his precocious little sister Shuri who is a teenage Q and played with gleeful delight by Letitia Wright. The action jet sets around the globe from a daring robbery in London to a casino shootout and car chase in Busan with Martin Freeman's Everett Ross as Felix Lighter and Ulysses Klaue as the accented, maniacal super villain. Having spent so many years hidden underneath CGI and a motion capture suit, he is clearly relishing the chance to ham it up in front of the camera, and get time for a Hobbit reunion with Bilbo.
The issues come when the action returns to the CG heavy Wakanda and the real plot and villain in the form of Michael B. Jordan's Eric "Killmonger" come to the fore and the film switches from a spy movie to Marvel's version of The Lion King, with a prince battling to regain the throne from an evil relative following the death of his father.
The central struggle between T'Challa and Killmonger comes from an interesting place in that both want to advance the fortunes of Wakanda albeit from different perspectives and methods. One wants the country to do more through outreach and development while the other wants to provide arms to have communities rise up against their oppressors. This is Boseman's stoic MLK vs Jordan's charasmatic Malcolm X.
At the heart of it is a fascinating struggle but the power is somewhat lost as it descends into a standard Marvel third act which includes a mass CG brawl involving war rhinos, a one-on-one fight that could have been cut straight out of Tron Legacy and story beats right of the original Iron Man playbook.
It might follow the superhero formula but this is a standalone film with very few references to the wider MCU so the casual filmgoer can enjoy it for what it is without worrying too much about how it sets things up for Infinity War.
This is a superhero film straight outta Wakanda but this reviewer has a feline that Black Panther will, like the lion, find it's roar in the future.

3 stars

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Phantom Thread - review


On paper, the design of Phantom Thread suggests a masterpiece. A creation of such exquisite beauty that it could grace the front of cover of Vogue as a work of art.
You have Paul Thomas Anderson. Writer & director of some of the greatest American movies of the last twenty years (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, The Master). And the man who won an Oscar as Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood, Daniel Day-Lewis in his final acting performance before retiring.
Only time will tell if this "retirement" is a definitive one or a Steven Soderbergh retirement.
However this tale of a tortured genius whose latest muse threatens to destroy everything he has created left this reviewer with a feeling of confusion and befuddlement.
It was a similar reaction as to seeing a haute couture, high end fashion statement come towards you on the catwalk. You can appreciate the time and effort and creativity that went into its creation but it leaves you wondering who on earth it is actually aimed at and who would wear it.
The film at times feels like it could become Fifty Shades Of Grey if it had been written and filmed by Merchant Ivory.
Day-Lewis's wonderfully monikered Reynolds Woodcock is a fashion designer whose creative genius is contained, controlled and channelled by his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville). A woman not above removing distractions and obstacles to his work, even if that includes his girlfriends.
It is clear who wears the tailored trousers in that relationship, as evidenced by one of the best lines of dialogue of 2018 when she warns him "Don't pick a fight with me, you certainly won't come out alive. I'll go right through you and it'll be you who ends up on the floor. Understand?"
Yet the Woodcock's perfectly patterned lives will soon be thrown into disarray when Reynolds discovers the young and beautiful Alma, who becomes his new muse. A fiery, fiesty character who doesn't need a corset to give her a backbone. Vicky Krieps gives as good as she gets and goes toe to toe with the formidable Day-Lewis, particularly during a dinner argument over asparagus.
The film is rather threadbare on plot but it doesn't need it. This is a character study sumptuously scored by Jonny Greenwood. One of a twisted and tangled love triangle where if the phantom thread is continually pulled, the whole thing will start to unravel.
Phantom Thread is like that stunning piece of clothing that you see in the shop window, convinced it will be perfect but when you get home and finally try it on, it just doesn't fit right. You wear it out once, just to check if it works but ultimately you'll return home to put it in your wardrobe never to be worn again.

3 stars

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

The Cloverfield Paradox (Netflix Originals) - review


It could be fair to say that the biggest surprise of Superbowl LII wasn't that the Philadelphia Eagles upset the New England Patriots but Netflix calling an audible and screened a trailer announcing that The Cloverfield Paradox would be released immediately after the game!
With that Netflix scored an impossible hail mary touchdown and won the Superbowl trailer war, receiving the most chatter on social media and sacking the big hitters like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Mission Impossible: Fallout and the Solo teaser. The only thing they couldn't compete with was #SuperbowlSelfieKid!
The Cloverfield franchise has always managed to surprise. The first Cloverfield stunned audiences with a fantastic trailer that suddenly appeared in cinemas with no advance hype. 10 Cloverfield Lane was announced and released within two months and now this latest stunt.
One can only imagine that Overlord, the fourth Cloverfield movie which has already finished filming, will automatically appear on your computer one day, like a U2 album, whether you want it or not.
While one can applaud the audacity of Netflix's marketing masterstroke (releasing a film during the most watched sporting event of the year), it would only really matter if the film was any good.
The answer? Yes and No.
As a genre B-Movie, The Cloverfield Paradox plays out like a Greatest Hits of science fiction cliches. Or Now That's What I Call A Space Station Sci-Fi Film.

A space craft on a mission which is Earth's last hope but ultimately goes array and cannot be solved by Chris O'Dowd turning it off and on again? Check
A racially and ethnically diverse crew? Check!
A noble captain who will sacrifice themselves for the good of the mission? Check
A shifty, European officer who may or not be out to sabotage the mission? Check

On its own, the film is passable, enjoyable Netflix fare which gains bonus points for having the final hero and villain passing the Bechdel Test. At the same time unfortunately suffers in comparison to 2017's Life as the plot and style is very similar.
This could be why Paramount decided to sell it to Netflix, change its name from God Particle and repackage it as a Cloverfield film.
And this is where the film does fail because it feels like the movie has been retrofitted into the Cloververse.
10 Cloverfield Lane had also started life as a standalone script but it worked as the majority of the film was set in the bunker and you didn't know what was really outside (or who the real monster was). The film only laid its cards on the table in the final five minutes.
Paradox similarly has hints and minor allusions to the other films but it is only at the very end that the audience is given a definitive answer (albeit a very brief one).
While it is a fun final image, it feels like the audience have once again been shortchanged.
One starts to feel that anyone can make a cheap genre film and as long as they tack on a shot of a monster in the final reel, you can banner it under the Cloverfield name.
Let's hope this is not the case and the producers can return to the inventiveness and surprise wow factor that worked so well for the original.
It is certainly the stuff a Cloverfield of Dreams is made of.

3 stars

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Superbowl Sunday - Trailer Touchdown

Superbowl Sunday is one of the biggest dates in the sports and entertainment calendar.

Not only is it the biggest sporting event in the US, featuring an epic musical performance during the halftime show but it is the one day of the year that movie fans without an interest in sports will watch a game of American Football.

It's not because they want to see if it bears any resemblance to Al Pacino's wonderful Inch by Inch speech in Any Given Sunday...


No, the film fans are here for the trailers. Superbowl Sunday advertising premiums are the priciest in the world but with a worldwide audience of 111.3 million last year, film distributors spend a lot of money, time and effort trying to ensure that their movie trailer is the one that people are talking about the next day.

In 2017 for example, audiences were treated to teasers for Logan, Ghost In The Shell, Life, John Wick Chapter 2. However most people agreed it was the trailer for Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2., using Fleetwood Mac's The Chain that triumphed into the end zone that year.

So what can we expect from Superbowl LII when the Philadelphia Eagles take on the New England Patriots in a game of football that somehow manages to make 60 minutes last for 4 hours?

Black Panther
With less than two weeks to its release, expect one final action packed clip designed to raise anticipation to fever pitch.

Solo: A Star Wars Story
A trailer is expected to drop on Good Morning America but many feel that we will see the very first footage of the troubled production that saw Lord & Miller replaced by Ron Howard during the big game. This is the one that everyone will have an opinion on one way or the other.

Avengers: Infinity War
Marvel might focus all their attention on Black Panther but there is a slim chance that they could release a version of the trailer that was only glimpsed at Comic-Con.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Life, uh, will find a way to screen some new footage from the sequel to the billion dollar Jurassic World.

Mission Impossible: Fallout
This has another trailer that has been confirmed to screen during the Superbowl by Tom Cruise on Twitter so expect footage from the sixth installment, that may or may not include the shot of Cruise breaking his leg and Henry Cavill's moustache that sunk the Justice League movie.

God Particle (Cloverfield)
Nothing is know about the new film from the Cloverfield universe and with a release date of April, it is the perfect time to drop a strange, mysterious trailer on an unsuspecting audience.

Skyscraper
The Rock will fight a building in the promo for the summer's new disaster movie.

Deadpool 2
There is no scenario where Deadpool and/or Ryan Reynolds do not make an appearance with a tongue-in-cheek meta take on sporting's biggest event.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

The Shape Of Water - review


The Shape Of Water arrives on our shores riding the crest of a wave, buoyed by two Golden Globes, 12 BAFTA nominations and 13 Oscar nominations. But does the film sink or swim under the high expectations of all that praise?
Thankfully Guillermo Del Toro's film exceeds all expectations and simply put; is one of the most beautiful, stunning, moving fairy tales ever to grace the silver screen and it is deserving of so many superlatives that, just as the lead character, one struggles to find the words to describe how fantastic it truly is.
Del Toro is a filmmaker who has made his career by taking the monstrous and macabre and finding the beauty and humanity that lies beneath the horrific exterior e.g. Pan in Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy and Jessica Chastain in Crimson Peak.
Often switching between Spanish and English language features (Cronos, The Devil's Backbone to Blade II and Pacific Rim), Del Toro's unique style of visual storytelling can transcend the barriers of language. Pan's Labyrinth remains one of the biggest foreign language films ever to screen in the UK and with The Shape of Water, he proves that the power of language and speech is no barrier to love.
Set in the early 60's, Richard Jenkins's illustrator narrates to the audience a story of a mute woman who falls in love with an aquatic man while working in a top secret government facility.
In some ways, the film feels like it could have been the inspiration for the Creature From The Black Lagoon. In fact, the shadowy government agent played with a menacing relish by Michael Shannon says that they captured it from the Amazon, the same location as the original monster.
The production design of the creature is simply incredible and such a delight to see that it is (practically) all practical effects. Del Toro's lucky charm Doug Jones once again brings the film's beast to life opposite the beauty of Hawkins' Eliza.
The setting of the 60's is no accident, for this adult fairy tale is a story is about love and acceptance.
The four main characters of Eliza, Giles, Zelda and Hoffstetler all have to put up with rejection and persecution due to their disability, sexuality, race and nationality (most often at the hands of the real monster of the piece Shannon's Strickland).  All of them, through their interactions with the creature will ultimately learn to accept who they are and stand up for what they believe in, no matter what the cost.
There is not a single fish out of water when it comes to the performances. Hawkins and Jones have a wonderful chemistry together. Jenkins brings a touching gravitas as only he can to the lovelorn, fatherly figure of Giles and Stuhlbarg makes it a hat trick of Oscar nominated films between this, The Post and Call Me By Your Name.
Just as those two films perfectly captured the era they took place in, Paul Austenberry's production design is simply spectacular. Combined with the cinematography and art direction, it gives the whole thing the look and feel of a Douglas Sirk film or another recent movie about forbidden romance, Carol.
The love story here is just as passionate and sensual as that one and is certainly for adults only. But then what fairy tale, at its heart is not about sexual awakening?
This is one fairy tale that is anything but Grimm and can look forward to a fairy tale ending when it makes a splash at the Oscars.

5 stars

Monday, 29 January 2018

Bright (Netflix Originals) - review


In my first big change for review writing for 2018, it is time to recognise streaming services original content as part of the film release calendar and review them accordingly.
After all last year brought the likes of the excellent Gerald's Game, Cannes Film Festival competitor Okja and Amazon Studios Oscar-winning Manchester By The Sea.
Following on from the Oscar-nominated Mudbound, December brought Netflix's most expensive original production Bright, at a cool $90 million. Although this has now been surpassed by Scorsese's The Irishman at a budget of $100 million.
It wouldn't have been a Netflix original release with a little bit of controversy and Bright dutifully supplied it. Many critics called it one of the worst films of 2017 and Netflix fired back claiming it was their most popular original release with 11 million views in its first three days.
While its true that 11 million views on Netflix, which is a paid subscription, is not equal to 11 million people paying $15 to watch a film in a cinema during its opening weekend, it was certainly enough for Netflix to greenlight a sequel. Clearly they are banking on a large percentage of those views being people who enjoyed it and not just clicking on it to see if it was as bad as the reviews made out.
This reviewer was certainly in the latter category to begin with but it is not anywhere near as bad as 2017 films such as Transformers: The Last Knight and The Snowman.
Just like Ayer's Suicide Squad, this is a case of poor execution and wasted potential. For there is something at the heart of Bright that could have made for a great limited series with a new spin on the procedural detective/mismatched buddy cop drama.
Instead the result is an End of Watch retread with two police partners forced to work through their own issues with each other whilst trying to stop the end of the world... Oh, that's right, Bright is set in a world where Humans, Orcs and Elves live side by side.
Imagine if Lord Of The Rings had ended with Sauron being destroyed and all the different armies called an uneasy truce until the modern day.
The film begins with very little in the way of world building, instead focusing on Will Smith's police officer returning to duty after being shot while on duty with the very first Orc police officer Nick Jacoby (played with humour and pathos by Joel Edgerton). The rest of the department want Jacoby gone because he doesn't fit in, and before you say it, yes it does feel very similar to the plot of Zootropolis at this point.
There are bigoted fellow cops and underhanded schemes to frame the Orc but before you can say Internal Affairs, the two partners are called to a disturbance where they discover the one ring that will rule them all... wait, no, they find a magic wand which is wanted by every single criminal in the city and it turns into a fight to survive the night.
From here it is a very generic, straight up action film that lacks the wit and charm needed to sell the more ridiculous aspects of the story. For example, at no point does Will Smith witness something crazy and shout "Awwww hell no!". Missed opportunities!
There remains untapped potential that could turn the sequel into something special but Bright is sadly a dim and dull affair with the risk that as it is on Netflix, audiences may not get to the end of their watch.

2 stars