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How does one celebrate a birthday/anniversary? I have been writing this blog for eight years now.  I had no idea what I was doing when I started and had no idea how long it would last, I didn’t think it would still be going after eight years.  Some anniversaries I have mentioned, others I have forgot, will I remember the big one in two years time, will I still be writing here by then? Who knows, for now I give you a staple of movies time-travel.  Take a look below at my first ever post from 19/02/07:

I have been thinking of starting a blog for some time on one of my favourite subjects Movies; I have finally gotten around to it. As it is the weekend of the biggest event in the movie calendar the Oscars I decided to do a my own preview on the awards running through the main awards noting what I think will win along with what I think should win.

Best Motion Picture of the Year: Slumdog Millionaire is by far the best film of the nominations and should win. The other nominations are: The Curious case of Benjamin Button is a good film if a little long. Frost/Nixon started life as stage play but has grown into an entertaining and informative film that deserves its place on the list. Milk a little preachy in its approach but a well told story with strong leading performances. The Reader is well filmed and well acted but a very average film that is inferior to many films that didn’t receive a nomination.

frankBest Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler has been the favourite this award season so far; it is the most likely winner but I would go for Frank Langella in Frost Nixon. A fantastic performance that captures the mannerisms of the former president as well as a more sympathetic portrait of the man than I thought possible. The other nominations are: Richard Jenkins – The Visitor, Sean Penn – Milk, Brad Pitt – The Curious case of Benjamin Button.

rachBest Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: Like Rourke, Kate Winslet (The Reader) has been the darling of the award season and will probably win but my vote would go to Anne Hathaway for Rachel Getting Married: an amazing performance from the young actress whose character is ultimately a miserable, selfish, narcissistic bitch but she also comes across as vulnerable, funny and sometimes even likable, very reminiscent of Angelina Jolie’s mental patient Lisa in Girl Interrupted. Angelina Jolie is herself also in with a chance for Changeling. The other nominations are: Melissa Leo for Frozen River and Meryl Streep for Doubt.

jokeBest Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: Robert Downey Jr. for Tropic Thunder isn’t realistically in with a chance in a comic role a bit like Johnny Depp for Pirates of the Caribbean in 2003. The winner will be a well deserved Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight although I can’t help thinking the comic book role may have been overlooked if not for the actor’s untimely death. The other nominations are: Josh Brolin for Milk, Philip Seymour Hoffman for Doubt and Michael Shannon for Revolutionary Road.

barca1Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: Possibly the hardest to call with strong performances across all the nominations. Amy Adams (Doubt) has to be in with a chance as does Marisa Tomei who is excellent in The Wrestler but I think it will go to Penélope Cruz who lit up her scenes in Vicky Cristina Barcelona and will be presented by her co star Javier Bardem who won last year for No Country for Old Men. The other nominations are: Viola Davis for Doubt and Taraji P. Henson for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

 Best Achievement in Directing: Another tough category but I think as with best film Danny Boyle will be a deserved winner for Slumdog Millionaire but would not be disappointed if David Fincher won for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, both directors made enjoyable epic films. The other nominations are Ron Howard for Frost/Nixon (who is a good outside bet) Stephen Daldry for The Reader (a great performance by Kate Winslet but not a great film) Gus Van Sant for Milk.

bruges1Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen: It is often difficult pick the best screenplay especially in the written directly for the screen category, how do you separate it from the best film category. Mike Leigh is an interesting case he is nominated for Happy-Go-Lucky this is his fourth writing nomination to go with his two directing nominations. It would be great to see him win but he does famously use a very loose script letting actors improvise their characters and the scenes. My vote is for Martin McDonagh for In Bruges, his brave script the sticks two fingers up at political correctness in what is probably the best comedy of 2008. the other nominations are: Courtney Hunt for Frozen River, Dustin Lance Black for Milk and Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, Jim Reardon for WALL·E.

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published presents a different problem. What are you voting for? The best screenplay or the best achievement based on the constraints of the original material. The nominations are based on: two plays, two novels and a novella/shot story. My vote goes to Frost/Nixon (Peter Morgan) as it most successfully moves away from it stage origins and captures the age perfectly. But realistically I think Slumdog Millionaire (Simon Beaufoy) will take the award. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a great film that takes it inspiration if not its story from an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story. As much as I enjoyed the film a still can not forgive it writer Eric Roth for stealing two and a half hours of my life in the form of Forrest Gump! (His co writer on this film is Robin Swicord) The other nominations are John Patrick Shanley for Doubt, a film that seems incapable of transcending its theatrical origins. David Hare for The Reader, a film with great performances but not a great film.

Best Achievement in Cinematography. There is a tend to give the Cinematography award to pretty images and vast landscapes forgetting the true meaning of the art; Cinematography is an art! The use of camera and lenses choices to capture the film makers vision and the use of lighting to capture the mood. There are two very different films that stand out for me: Tom Stern (who has worked with Clint Eastwood on most of his recent films) for Changeling and Wally Pfister for The Dark Knight. However I think voters will be blinded by the vibrant colours in the beautifully shot Slumdog Millionaire (Anthony Dod Mantle). The other nominations are: Claudio Miranda for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Roger Deakins & Chris Menges for The Reader.

 komplexBest Foreign Language Film of the Year is another strange category as only one film can be entered from any one country so The wave misses out to the other German entry Der Baader Meinhof Komplex. I would probably choose this one but think the terrorist subject matter will not go down well in America. Unfortunately I have not seen the Israeli entry Vals Im Bashir but everyone I know who has seen it (both of them) have been amazed by it. The other entries are: Entre les murs (France), Revanche (Austria) and Okuribito (Japan).

So there it is my first ever blog entry. Hope I didn’t bore you too much, if I did you probably stopped reading long before this point! I will be back next week with an explanation of where my blog got its name.

The best ever DC adaptation the dark Knight has taught us. You either die a hero all live long enough to see yourself become the villain. The MCU will run out of steam and ideas one day. When that happens they can either carry on making progressively worse films or, they can end the series and wait for the inevitable reboot. This dying a hero before it has chance to become a villain. So far Marvel have got it right, But this is where it gets complicated. When do you end a successful serious?  do you bleed it dry or do you get out early leaving the audience wanting more? The latter makes the most sense but the former will be hard for the filmmakers to resist, they do have the bottom line to think of after all.  But, as this happens, they will be confronted with actors who either want to move on to avoid typecasting, or who and ever increasing remuneration. captain-america-and-iron-man

Nobody realistically expects the end of phase 3 to be the end of the  MCU,  but what comes next? Very simply the death of Iron Man and Captain America! this is a comic book movie so their deaths will be heroic and nobody will stay dead forever. And this is where I must admit that the title is a little misleading; Iron Man and Cap don’t have to die, their alter ego’s Tony Stark and Steve Rogers are the ones who must die.  After all, the roles of both Iron Man and Captain America have been taken on by other characters.  Their demise Will pave the way for one of the other characters to take over the lead of avengers for a final fourth phase. The most obviously there will be Captain Marvel, Who will be introduced to the serious very soon. But why kill Steve And Tony? There are two reasons for this, firstly: their stories will be told by this time, secondly; the series needs to kill off a few of its major characters to remain credible. There is an argument to end the series at the end of phase three, however, this will not give time to properly explore the new characters that are constantly being introduced such as the aforementioned Captain Marvel. There is another strong if potentially selfish reason for wanting to kill these major characters, it will leave a void that must be filled.  It is unlikely, but could lead to the most interesting character in the universe getting her own movie; I am of course talking of black widow. We have seen hints and clips suggesting a back-story for black widow and Hawkeye but have yet to see either in any detail. I’m not convinced okay I’ll carry a movie but he could play a large part in Black widows a story. But this is just one element of it, do you want another back-story/origin movie? Black widow is such an interesting character that she could be used in the new standalone story.the-avengers

But back to the point. How long before Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr decide they’ve had enough and don’t want to continue in their roles? It has been suggested that Downey Jr is already at that point and is only still on board for the paycheque. What will happen when money is enough to keep them? The worst possible scenario is recasting. Only marginally better is writing the characters out without having the actors to do the story justice. To put it simply they MCU needs Tony Stark and Captain America to die heroes and friends.

Question: If something you love is adapted into a new medium, do you a: run a mile and pretend it doesn’t exist, or b: go and see it out of morbid curiosity? With this in mind I went to see Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes and quickly learnt that I had nothing to worry about.  Depending on who you ask Matthew Bourne is either the enfant terrible of ballet, or the genius bringing dance into 21st century. 

matthew-bournes-the-red-shoes

From talking to other audience members, and overhearing people in the bar at the interval,  it was clear that there were a lot of people there who haven’t seen the film, therefore, there may be some people reading this who also haven’t.  In short, made by The Archers, aka director / producer due Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger in 1948.   The story of Vicky Page (Moira Shearer) an ambitious young dancer torn between her career represented by the controlling company impresario Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook) and the man she loves Julian Craster (Marius Goring).

the-red-shoes-ashley-shaw

Ashley Shaw takes on the part of Vicky and is sensational (Ashley Shaw danced the lead on Wednesday but shares the role with Cordelia Braitwaite and Katrina Lyndon depending on when you go) as are the rest of the cast.  Knowing the film so well it is difficult to say how well the story is expressed, and how much of it is my prior knowledge.  One thing that is clear, the love triangle between Page, Lermontov and Craster is clearly expressed and is the heart of the story.  I am not sure if an audience needs to understand any more than this to enjoy the production. There are changes to the plot but the centre of the story, ballet of The Red Shoes remains: Based on the Hans Christian Andersen story: a young woman is given a pair of red shoes by a demonic Shoemaker. She puts them on and begins to dance and can’t stop.  Ultimately she dies from exhaustion and the shoes are retrieved by the Shoemaker ready for his next victim.

the red shoes moira shearer

Like with the film, the ballet of The Red Shoes is spectacular.  Without the benefit of movie special effects (yes they did exist before CGI) the ballet relies of stunning production design.  The sets are nothing short of genius. A proscenium arch located on the stage turns at key points of the show changing the audiences prospective.  Combined with a few simple props and some projected images it proves that a little truly can go a long way.  There a few moments from the film that can’t be reproduced without dialogue, most notably an exchange between Page and Lermontov exploring their motivation.

Forgoing Brian Easdale score from the film in favour of the music of legendry film composer Bernard Herrmann.  An interesting choice.  If you listen to Herman’s music from North by Northwest and Psycho you will hear elements similar to those of a ballet score with characters having their own motifs entwine as the characters interact.  But you won’t hear any of this in The Red Shoes, none of his collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock are used.  The notable scores used here include re-orchestrated versions of Citizen Kane, Fahrenheit 451, and Hangover Square.  The music is fantastic and works perfectly, at no time did I think I was listening to a modern score or one cobbled together, it sounded like a Herman movie score, a classical score with an edge.  The one thing I did miss, a live orchestra.  As fantastic as score is, a live orchestra would have elevated it to a different level. bernard-herrmann

Cinema is my first love and I have loved The Red Shoes since I first saw it as a student more than twenty years ago, but Matthew Bourne’s adaptation is a worthy one. 

If you are reading this you probably already know as much as you need to about Hacksaw Ridge.  For those who don’t, directed by controversial filmmaker Mel Gibson: Andrew Garfield gives an excellent, Oscar nominated performance as Desmond Doss.  An American Medic who served during the Battle of Okinawa in WWII but refused to carry a gun making him the first man in American military history to receive the Medal of Honour without firing a shot.

hacksaw-ridge-poster

Question: is Hacksaw Ridge a good two hour twenty minute movie hiding a ninety-five minute masterpiece?  Answer, probably.  Mel Gibson has proved with Braveheart and in particular Apocalypto that he is a master of big, bold and violent action.  But he has never been able to get away with the quieter moments without being sentimental, preachy and heavy-handed.  That is why Hacksaw Ridge was an opportunity to showcase what he does best. andrew-garfield

Understandable comparisons have been made with Saving Private Ryan and Full Metal Jacket.  Saving Private Ryan is simply a matter of the brutal visceral war scenes.  While Hacksaw ridge’s portrayal of the Battle of Okinawa is more bloody and violent than Steven Spielberg’s depiction of the Normandy Invasion it is actually less shocking.  Partly because Saving Private Ryan opens with the assault on Omaha Beach whereas, Hacksaw ridge builds up to its battle, but mainly because it was new, when it first came out we had never seen anything so visceral and brutal.  In the years that have followed we have seen Black Hawk Down, Enemy at the Gates, Lone Survivor, American Sniper, as well as real conflicts and atrocities on TV news.  Full Metal Jacket is more complicated, there are two elements of comparison.  Vince Vaughn’s Sergeant Howell is very much in the vein of R. Lee Ermey’s  Senior Drill Instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman.  But then, the character has become an archetype, think Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley (Louis Gossett, Jr. in An Officer and a Gentleman), Career Sgt. Zim (Clancy Brown in Starship Troopers) or even Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Highway (Clint Eastwood in Heartbreak Ridge) When Vaughn walks in shouting and giving the recruits nicknames it looked like he would give a pastiche of Ermey, fortunately he doesn’t and is actually very good.  The second more significant comparison is the structure of the film.  Like Full Metal Jacket, Hacksaw Ridge is split into two distinct halves, the first in America, the second in country.  The difference, both halves of Stanley Kubrick’s Vietnam movie are equally as good. The war scenes in Hacksaw Ridge stand up to any other war film, but the quieter moments of the first half don’t.

sergeant-howell

I have heard the first hour of Hacksaw Ridge described as a Hallmark Channel movie, this is unkind, it is better than that, but it is overlong, preachy and heavy-handed.  How could this have been improved?  The war scenes account for over an hour of the movie.  There are moments of quiet within this that a clear break points.  It would have been very easy to jump right into the action and intersperse it with flashbacks to Doss in training and at home before enlisting.  This would come in at around 95 minutes.  A tighter more concise film done well would have both been a better watch, and would have given a greater impact.  It would also make the gaps in battle more interesting than they are.

The problem, this shorter bolder film may have been better but it would  have lacked the epic status that war films need to gain favour with Oscar voters. We may have seen a better film but would we have seen a film with six Oscar nominations?

A busy start to the year with twelve films in three weeks (I was on holiday for the first week).  None of the films I have seen ahave been bad, a couple have stood out as being excellent:

Silence: Possibly Martin Scorsese’s most personal movie for a long time, certainly his most weighty.  While it is brilliantly made and impeccably acted I struggled to connect with it making it a really good film but not a great one.silence

Assassins Creed: The buzz was that this would be the best video game adaptation, it isn’t bad but there are some serious flaws.  The biggest problem, is a total lack of fun.  The 15th century Spain action scenes are brilliant, the present day are terrible and the plot is incoherent at best. assassins-creed

Live By Night: What starts out looking like it is going to be a prohibition era outlaw movie becomes a gangster epic. Ben Affleck’s weakest film as a director but not without merit.   live-by-night

Manchester by the Sea: What is essentially a small family drama is elevated to greatness by great acting and a perfectly structured script.  Casey Affleck is brilliant in the lead, Michelle Williams totally steals the movie in a couple of tiny scenes.MBTS_3869.CR2

Donnie Darko: Back in cinema’s for its 15th anniversary and as good as ever.donnie-darko

Underworld Blood Wars: The fifth installment of the vampires v werewolves franchise.  The plot is paper and silly thin at best but it looks great Kate Beckinsale is excellent as ever. underworld-blood-wars

A Monster Calls: Juan Antonio Bayona tells a story that looks like it’s going to be a family drama, it then develops into what appears to be a monster movie but ends up being so much more. a-monster-calls

La La Land: The musical Oscar favourite is neither the masterpiece that some are claiming or The Emperor’s New Clothes that others suggest. la-la-land

Trainspotting: Re-released in time for the sequel, the cult classic from my student days is, great to see it, it hasn’t lost anything in the 20 years since I first saw it.trainspotting

XXX: Return of Xander Cage: Vin Diesel returns to the franchise.  Poorly made with terrible dialogue but fun and filled with great action. xxx-return-of-xander-cage

Split: M. Night Shyamalan’s career as a director has been hit and miss at best.  This horror/thriller/exploitation movie is something of a return to form.  James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy are both excellent. split

Jackie: Technically not a biopic of first Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, more precisely a glimpse at a small but significant moment in her life, a significant moment in the 20th century.  A well structured story with an amazing performance from Natalie Portman at its centre. jackie

T2 Trainspotting: The world is a very different place twenty years on, I worried that there wasn’t a place for this sequel, there was no need to worry.  Both more nostalgic and melancholic than I expected but no less enjoyable. t2-trainspotting

Denial: The true story of the court case that followed Holocaust denier David Irving’s attempt to sue historian Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher Penguin Books. The script is a little by the numbers but the acting is brilliant from Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson and Timothy Spall.DENIAL

I have excluded the two reissue movies and only considered the ten new releases, the movie of the month is: a-monster-calls-poster

WARNING CONTAINS SPOILERS

If you watch the trailer for the movie Passengers you will know that it is the story of a starship on a 120 year one way trip to colonise a new world. Two passengers (Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence) wake up from cryosleep 90 years prematurely. With no way of going back to sleep and no one else due to wake up until the final stages of the journey, they are in effect, the only people alive, or two survivors on a desert island without the possibility of escape or rescue. The latter part of the trailer tells of how their love story gives way to action and adventure as they have to save the ship.passengers-movie
I was fortunate enough to see a preview of the film without hearing anything or reading any reviews. The first review I heard came a few days later from Mark Kermode on the BBC. Normally very careful not to give away any spoilers Kermode gave away a key point in the plot. As we know from the trailer, Jim Preston (Pratt) is woken 90 years too soon, but what we didn’t know is that he was responsible for waking Aurora Lane (Lawrence). A quick search online will tell you that Kermode’s newspaper of choice, The Guardian published not one, but three reviews of the film by: Wendy Ide, Peter Bradshaw and Andrew Pulver. They all give away this key plot point, the later even mentions how the marketing doesn’t mention it: “All the pre-release material – trailers, marketing trails and the like – suggest that Lawrence’s character, a whimsical writer called Aurora Lane, is woken in a similarly accidental way to Preston; or at least they wilfully gloss over the actual reason.”passengers-jim-and-aurora
Both Kermode and Pulver point out that it isn’t a spoiler, I have also hear other reviewers suggest the marketing isn’t designed to avoid spoilers, rather to hide a more icky side to the story. However, I think it is a spoiler. The film is very bright and is directed with a light touch, it has plenty of comedy. A lot of the comedy is provided by a brilliant Michael Sheen as Arthur, the robotic barman reminiscent of Lloyd, the bartender from The Gold Room at the Overlook Hotel. This brevity gives the films darker underbelly a more menacing and disturbing context. Many of the films detractors will tell you that the moral question of what the Jim does in condemning a another person to the same fate that as his own is glossed over. Others will tell you that that the overriding plot lets the character off the hook. Both of these are true to a certain extent. There are clearly extenuating circumstances, not least Jim’s state of mind, remember he was on the verge of suicide!passengers-michael-sheen
Ultimately the film is good, but not great. The best thing about it is the concept and the likeable cast. The worst, the holes in the plot. But this isn’t a review, it isn’t about how good or bad the film is, more how it was marketed and reviewed. From my point of view the trailer was spot on. To see the amount of time Jim spent onboard alone before waking Aurora both gave the film a different context but also provided a more interesting second act than I was expecting. The twist doesn’t come when Jim wakes Aurora, but the moment you realise he is going to and that she won’t wake up by accident the way he did. This would have been destroyed by giving too much away in the marketing. What about the reviews? I am a firm believer that if you want no spoilers avoid all reviews and trailers, but in this case I do think they have gone a little too far.

2016 Box-Office

  1. Comic book franchise
  2. Animated sequel            
  3. Original animation          
  4. (mostly) Animated remake   
  5. Original animation          
  6. Comic book franchise    
  7. Part of multibillion dollar franchise          
  8. Comic book franchise    
  9. Part of multibillion dollar franchise                          
  10. Comic book franchise

Captain America Civil WarYou have probably already worked out that the above list is the top ten grossing movies of 2016 (worldwide box office).  The only two original stories in the top ten where child friendly animations (one Disney, the other Universal).  Numbers 11 to 20 are much the same with a few more comic book movies, animations and a video game adaptation. The Jungle Book

The big winner of the year has been Disney with a box office gross of around $8billion, most of which came from movies that follow the trends mentioned above (Captain America: Civil War, Finding Dory, The Jungle Book, Zootopia, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Moana).  They also had a couple of smaller releases: The Light Between Oceans and Queen of Katwe.  And a few that under preformed: The Finest Hours, The BFG, Alice Through the Looking Glass and Pete’s Dragon.  Expect more of the same in 2017 with Disney releases including the second Guardians of the Galaxy movie, another Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Thor: Ragnarok, Star Wars Edisode VIII, Cars 3 and a live action version of Beauty and the Beast.Zootropolis

The problem with this?  With the number of films released by the major studios dropping by nearly half over the past decade, they are not taking many risks on new unproved properties.  Clearly production companies, whether they be major studios or small independents are in the business of making money and not art.  But maybe it is time for studios to take a few more risks on unproven properties and remember Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s official motto, “Ars Gratia Artis”, or “Art for art’s sake”.mgm logo

On a side, Sci-Fi is often considered a niche genre with a slightly geeky reputation, it is has proved to be the highest movies of the decade that are not either animated, a remake or part of an existing franchise, they include, Interstellar, The Martian, Gravity, Inception.  But making a Sci-Fi movie, isn’t a guarantee of a hit, they have also been resulted in some of the biggest flops too: Cowboys & Aliens, John Carter, Jupiter Ascending and Tomorrowland."JOHN CARTER OF MARS"

While I fully expect one of the usual suspects (Star Wars or Marvel) to top the box-office in 2017, it would be nice to see a few original movies in the top ten too. 

In case you are wondering the 2016 top ten was: 1: Captain America: Civil War, 2: Finding Dory, 3: Zootopia (Zootropolis in the UK), 4: The Jungle Book, 5: The Secret Life of Pets, 6: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, 7: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, 8: Deadpool, 9: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, 10: Suicide Squad.