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Archive for November, 2016

I recently heard someone suggest that title of Sully, the  Clint Eastwood movie about Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who performed an emergency landing on the Hudson, sounds like a sequel to Monsters, Inc.  This got me thinking out other movies from the past year whose title makes them sound like they belong to very different films:sully

Nocturnal Animals – a documentary about foxes and badgers.nocturnal-animals

Spotlight – An actors life in the in the spotlight, actual and metaphorical.spotlight

Youth – A social drama about young hoody gangs.youth

Hail Caesar –  Julius Caesar biopic.spotlight

The Neon Demon – A supernatural horror.the-neon-demon

Anthropoid – Alian invasion Sci-Fi horror.anthropoid

The Girl with all the Gifts – Christmas drama about a spoilt rich girl.the-girl-with-all-the-gifts

Swiss Army Man – Biopic about the inventor of the Swiss army knife. swiss-army-man

American Honey – Drama about American Beekeepers.american-honey

Trolls – Teen drama about internet trolls.trolls

Snowden – Welsh drama set around the countries highest mountain (I know they are spelt differently).snowden

Moonlight – Horror about werewolfs.moonlight

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Whilst watching Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them I rapidly came to the conclusion that Queenie (Alison Sudol) and Kowalski (Dan Fogler) are more interesting than the main characters.  This got me thinking of the supporting characters that have enhanced movies this year:queenie-alison-sudol-and-kowalski-dan-fogler

Rocky: Let’s start with the strangest, Rocky as a supporting character in a Rocky movie! Creed is a Rocky movie, but it’s also its own beast and Michael B. Jordan is excellent as Adonis Johnson/Creed and was unlucky not to receive an Oscar nomination, but Sylvester Stallone was fantastic as Rocky and truly was a supporting character.sylvester-stallone-creed

Ringer: The 5th Wave was a poor film with little to recommend it but Maika Monroe was brilliant as ever playing the most fun character in the movie.ringer-the-5th-wave-maika-monroe

Sheriff Chris Mannix: Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight is a truly ensemble movie and it is hard to call any of the characters supporting, however, in a dialogue heavy movie one of the less well known actors stands out: Walton Goggins. Anyone who has seen Justified won’t be surprised.sheriff-chris-mannix-walton-goggins

Penelope Lannier: Like many people the first I heard of Dakota Johnson was Fifty Shades of Grey, like many people I thought she was the only good thing about the film.  In A Bigger Splash not only does she stand out, but she does it against some seriously amazing actors: Tilda Swinton, Marianne Lane, Ralph Fiennes.penelope-lannier-a-bigger-splash-dakota-johnson

Howard: 10 Cloverfield Lane: is a seriously leftfield sequel.  Mary Elizabeth Winstead is fantastic in the lead but the film would have fallen apart without the brilliant John Goodman.howard-10-cloverfield-lane-john-goodman

Isabelle: In Louder Than Bombs, Isabelle Huppert is never less than sensational and has therefore set the bar pretty high for herself.  playing a dead character, we only see her in flashbacks, but she is the focus of the film and it wouldn’t work unless she is good.  The film is mesmerising and she is monumental.isabelle-huppert-louder-than-bombs

Tanya Vanderpoel: Margot Robbie‘s best moment in Whisky Tango Foxtrot is in the trailer.  To add to this she is supporting the brilliant Tina Fey in the first movie role worthy of her talents in years.  To be honest the offhand delivery of her line in the trailer is enough to give her a place on this list, but she also provides great support in to Fey’s lead.tanya-vanderpoel-margot-robbie-whisky-tango-foxtrot

St Clair Bayfield and Cosmé McMoon: If Meryl Streep gets within a mile of a movie she picks up an Oscar nomination, it is therefore hard to stand out in her presence, however, in Florence Foster Jenkins two performances stand out; Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg.st-clair-bayfield-and-cosme-mcmoon

Jane Clayton: The Legend of Tarzan: is a good old-fashioned action adventure film that was unfairly derided on release.  Alexander Skarsgård is good as John Clayton / Tarzan, Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson do a really good job playing Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson.  However, I would happily have watched a movie about Jane played by Margot Robbie in one of three standout performances this year.jane-clayton-the-legend-of-tarzan-margot-robbie

Jillian Holtzmann: Ghostbusters is a week film.  Its problems have nothing to do with the casting or the gender of the stars and has everything to do with flabby direction and a week unfunny script.  To give an actress as talented as Kristen Wiig such a poor part is a crime .  There is one good thing about the film and this comes from the one actor I had never heard of; Kate McKinnon.jillian-holtzmann-ghostbusters-kate-mckinnon

Jake: Star played by Sasha Lane is the star (pun intended) of American Honey but the standout performance comes from the supporting cast as Shia LaBeouf finally fulfils the promise of the talented young actor we saw in A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints and glimpsed in Nymphomaniac: and The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman.american-honey-shia-labeouf

Miss Peregrine: Eva Green was the only good thing about Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, although she plays the eponymous role, she is a supporting character in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, but a memorable supporting character.MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN

Bobby Andes and Ray Marcus: Amy Adams is the focus of Nocturnal Animals, it will be a crime if she doesn’t pickup her sixth and seventh Oscar nominations for this and Arrival, but there are other standout performances that really make the film tick: Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson.michael-shannon-aaron-taylor-johnson-nocturnal-animals

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“In a world…..” if like me you grew up in the 80’s you would have heard those words a lot.  Well maybe not as often as you remember, not that many trailers actually featured those words, but most did have a voiceover in a very particular tone.

Modern trailers have changed, and while they have largely dropped the voiceover they can still often give too much plot away, or conversely twist things enough to make you want to see film.  Here are three examples of 2016 trailers that represent: The Good, a great trailer that makes me want to see the film; The Bad, a terrible trailer that gives the plot away makes the film look unfunny and stopped me going to see the film; and finally the Misleading a great trailer that the film couldn’t live up to:

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

“This is a rebellion isn’t it? I rebel!” Both the official teaser trailer and the shorter #1 begin with these lines and you immediately know two things: one, everything is going to be okay, there was no need to worry about Star Wars straying back to the dark side of the dreaded prequel, and two, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones)  is going to be a great character.  Just like the longer trailers that follow it shows just enough plot to get you excited without giving much away that we don’t already know.  A master class in trailer making.

Keeping Up with the Joneses

One of the worst trailers I have ever seen on two counts.  As a comedy it has become the norm to put all the pest jokes in the trailer, even re-edit them to make them funnier.  This trailer really lacks laughs.  More importantly the film appears to have a first act based on misunderstandings that are cleared up in a twist/reveal that is shown in the trailer.

Suicide Squad

The so called Blitz Trailer (as it features the song The Ballroom Blitz by The Sweet) is misleading but none the less brilliant.  Like Keeping Up with the Joneses it shows most of the plot, but it is so mixed up you don’t realise that until you have seen the film.  It also focuses heavily on the film’s best character Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) giving her a few killer lines (including one that doesn’t make the final cut of the film).  This is all topped off by two perfect song choices.  The film is okay.  the trailer is great. This probably helped it gross nearly as much as the franchises tent-pole; Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

 

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The Expanse

Anyone who read my article a couple of weeks ago will know that I recently signed up with Netflix. I still believe that the cinema is the best place to watch a film, the larger the screen the better.  For this reason I still visit the cinema an average of twice a week.  It will therefore come as no surprise that I watch more TV than movies on Netfix.  I have mainly been catching up on shows that I have been keen to see for some time but not gotten around to, however, I have just watched The Expanse based on the robotic recommendation of Netflix.the-expanse

For those who haven’t heard of it (I hadn’t a week ago), the Expanse is scf-fi crime drama / space opera.  Based on the series of books by James S. A. Corey ( a pen name for collaborators Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) set in a future where has spread out and colonized other planets.  The United Nations controls earth, Mars has its own military government.  Both planets depend on the resources of The Belt, the outer planets and asteroids whose inhabitants are treated like second class citizens.  The largest planet is Ceres (a real place, it is a dwarf planet in the orbit of Neptune located in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.  It is named after the Roman goddess of agriculture).  In the belt air and water are in short supply and are therefore a precious commodity.  The three factions are on the brink of war.  As a viewer we follow three main characters who stumble across a conspiracy and can’t let go:

Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo): UN Assistant Undersecretary of Executive Administration who becomes personally involved in events.chrisjen-avasarala-shohreh-aghdashloo

Joe Miller (Thomas Jane): an archetypal heavy drinking police detective on Ceres who is given an assignment that he isn’t supposed to solve.joe-miller-thomas-jane

Jim Holden (Steven Strait): an officer on an ice haulage ship who fall down a rabbit-hole that begins when he answers a distress call.

The opening credits have elements of The Man in the High Castle and Game of Thrones lending an air of familiarity.  The show itself is well constructed with great use of time.  Rather than relying on simple flashbacks within scenes the narrative moves around within its timeline with the same dexterity as it does within its universe.  This is achieved with a mixture of clearly dated and ambiguous variations that work well to keep the drama tense.  The story is similarly well constructed keeping an air of uncertainty and excitement.  Many of them main characters are well rounded and developed with believable histories, they are however, largely clichéd and unoriginal.  The acting is solid and natural without any wooden or over the top performances, however, on the other hand it lacks any of the standout performances that we can expect on modern TV shows.  It clearly doesn’t have the budget of a cinema movie or top TV show but the effects really aren’t bad and largely, it actually looks good.  The costumes are a little hit and miss with the space set elements using an effective mix of military uniforms and industrial overalls.  The planet based characters fall into most of the same clichés of other similar shows.   The biggest visual problem though, is Thomas Jane’s haircut.  Both too flamboyant and high maintenance for the deadbeat character he plays, but more significantly, it looks stupid.  The vehicles and planets have a sense of believably and reality as we have seen in Battlestar Galactica and Firefly.  It also shares a dirty industrial look of these shows.the-expanse-florence-faivre

It isn’t a classic show within the genre that we will be seeing alongside Battlestar Galactica and Game of Thrones on best of lists, but it does have both a charm and quality making it worth a recommendation.  I am looking forward to season two. 

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Everybody knows that the dice are loaded

Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed

Everybody knows the war is over

Everybody knows the good guys lost

Everybody knows the fight was fixed

The poor stay poor, the rich get rich

That’s how it goes

Everybody knows

leonard-cohenWhen I was around 15 or 16 years old I rented the Christian Slater/Samantha Mathis movie Pump Up the Volume.  A couple of years later I recorded it when it was shown on TV (anyone under the age of 35 will have no idea of the reason or significance of this!), in the five or six years that followed it was watched on hard rotation with first, school and then university friends along with some similarly themed movies:  Fandango, the breakfast club, Dazed and Confused, Heathers, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Sure Thing.  As time went on the film that once meant a lot to me became less significant, until, I don’t think I have seen it for over fifteen years.  However, it did give me one lasting thing, a love of the music of Leonard Cohen.  The film heavily features the song Everybody Knows.  I went out with the intention of purchasing the soundtrack but found that for rights reasons (as I discovered many years later) a cover version that was used over the credits was used on the soundtrack instead of the original that was so important in the film.  Instead I purchased the CD of I’m Your Man, the Leonard Cohen album that features the song.  And thus begun a love of Leonard Cohen’s music.

A great artist who will be missed despite the amazing musical legacy he leaves us. 

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Netfix V Amazon Prime,

I subscribed to Lovefilm around ten years ago as video rental shops started to die out. Somewhere along the way they became part of the Amazon juggernaut.  The result, they have messed around with the service and pricing, but the ultimate benefit to the customer, the service now includes Amazon Prime Video.  I have recently also subscribed to Netflix and thought I would take the opportunity to compare the two.  I must admit that I was thinking of dropping Amazon in favour of Netflix but two things have kept me for now.  Firstly; The Grand Tour, the new program from the former Top Gear Team.  Secondly and possible most significantly for now, the ability to download content to watch offline. netflix-v-amazon-prime

Content

The first issue doesn’t just rest with The Grand Tour, it is exclusive programming in general.  The two platforms have their own programs that they have either commissioned or have exclusive rights to.  How appealing these shows are is very much personal choice, but the Netflix highlights include House of Cards and the MCU shows: MCU Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. While Amazon boasts: Bosch, The Man in the High Castle and the aforementioned The Grand Tour. Both have a reasonable selection of films, both old and new, Netfix appears to have the greater choice.  Amazon however offers a further complication.  It offers many films and TV shows outside its “prime” membership that are paid for on a rental basis.  Netfix on the other hand is transparent, all content is available within your monthly subscription.jessica-jones the-grand-tour

Searching and Streaming

Netflix has a an idiot proof format with hundreds of recommendations based on previously viewed content.  It also has a simple search function that if the film show you request isn’t available it suggests alternatives.  Amazon has a similar if less fluid system.  Both the home page and the search function mix prime and premium content.  Searching for a particular movie or program is poor and can be infuriating, it is often simpler to find what you want in IMDb and follow the link.  The streaming experience is similar, both offer standard and high definition.  On standard definition Netfix has the edge with slightly better picture quality and a smother image stream.  Amazon, can occasionally be a little jerky, less sharp and is more prone to buffering, I am yet to see Netfix buffer even with a week wifi signal or poor bandwidth.  Amazon does have  one useful feature; if you move your mouse while watching content, the right-hand side of the screen gives a link to the IMDb page of the actors and music in the scene.netflix-menu amazon-prime-video-menu

Offline and Mobile

Amazon really has the edge here.  I still get the Lovefilm DVD rentals that Netfix don’t offer.  Both services have an app for mobile devices, both are very good but Amazon has the option to download content to watch offline.  This is important to me at the moment as I will be going on holiday next month and find flying extremely tedious.  The two hour SAS flight between Manchester and Oslo is shall we say, no frills.  Without the luxury of in flight entertainment I rely on whatever I can download to my tablet.  The flight time is perfect for a 90 minute movie or a couple of episodes of a TV program.  Netfix has previously  given very week excuses for the lack of offline options.  It can’t be cost as this will be already be factored into licensing deals.  Infrastructure shouldn’t be a problem, not only does Amazon offer the ability but so does the BBC iplayer.  Whatever their reasons they will be commercial in some way.  They may be having a change of direction though, earlier this year CEO Reed Hastings stated: “We’re open-minded about it [offline viewing] as we’ve expanded globally”.  It is also worth mentioning that there are unofficial apps available allowing you to download Netflix content, I have never looked into them or the legality of their use.tablet

Conclusion

Netflix offers a greater user experience but Amazon offers a few important extras.  I am sticking with both providers for the moment.  If Netflix do start offer an offline option Amazon will only keep my business by  keeping its content fresh and interesting.  On the other hand, if Netflix doesn’t move with the times they could also see me voting with my feet.  Only time will tell. 

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