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Posts Tagged ‘Brit Marling’

If you take a look at the top ten grossing movies of the year so far there are seven sequels (Iron Man 3, Despicable Me 2, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Monsters University, Fast & Furious 6, Oz The Great and Powerful, Star Trek Into Darkness) and a reboot (Man of Steel). World War Z (based on a book) will probably be knocked out of the top ten by The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smug leaving Gravity as the only original property to bother the top ten. Do audiences only go in large numbers to see sequels of franchise movies or do studios only commit large amounts of money to existing properties that a ready made audience? The $825million taken by Christopher Nolan’s Inception proved that a totally original movie could make money, however it would probably never been given the green light if not for the $1billion The Dark Knight took. As cinema prices creep up and audiences become ever more selective, studios become more cautious making it a self fulfilling prophesy relegating most original ideas to smaller films. With this in mind, here are my top five original movies of the year. Original movies, not a sequel, prequel, remake, re-imagining or reboot. Also, not based on a book, comic book or true story.

Stoker: In the year that the remake of Chan-wook Park’s masterpiece Oldboy limped onto cinema screens Stoker proved to be Park’s best film since Oldboy. The original screenplay was written by actor Wentworth Miller. A weird, beautiful and sublime blend of melodrama, psychological thriller and coming of age drama. Budget: $12,000,000 (estimated)stoker

Gravity: Alfonso Cuarón’s space adventure about a pair of astronauts trying to find a way home after a collision in space is a truly stunning film and the first film that should be seen in 3D preferably IMAX 3D. Budget: $100,000,000 (estimated)GRAVITY

Prisoners: Great acting from ensemble cast and stunning photography from Roger Deakins combine with taught direction French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve making his English-language debut elevate this from a genre movie with an overt subtext to a really good film. Budget: $46,000,000 (estimated)Prisoners

The East: An original story of the murky world of private intelligence firms and an environmental anarchist collective. Written by director Zal Batmanglij and star Brit Marling. It is notable for great acting and its dark melancholic tone. Budget: $6,500,000 (estimated)The East

Pacific Rim: To call Guillermo del Toro’s monsters vs. robot movie original would be a stretch as it appears to be based on every other monster movie/comic book to have gone before it, however it isn’t directly based on any other previously produced work. It makes the list ads it is just great fun, pure and simple. Budget: $190,000,000 (estimated)PACIFIC RIM

Mud – the continuing renascence of Matthew McConaughey.
The Counsellor – Cormac McCarthy’s first screenplay is far better than has been reported
About Time – Charming and funny time travel comedy from Richard Curtis.
Blue Jasmine – Cate Blanchett, deserves an Oscar.
Elysium – Neill Blomkamp’s Sci-Fi action drama lacks subtlety but is still good

Check back at the end of the month to see how many of these movies make my top ten of the year.

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The contenders for movie of the month are:

The East: Brit Marling plays a former FBI agent now working for a private intelligence firm, she is sent undercover to infiltrate the East, an anarchist collective. A suspense filled thriller with a fantastic performance from Marling. The East

The Bling Ring: Sofia Coppola’s film based on the fame-obsessed teenagers who robbed the Hollywood homes of a string of celebrities. Emma Watson is great and the film has the dream like quality you would expect from Coppola, but it is ultimately dull and repetitive.The Bling Ring

Chasing Mavericks: The true story of legendry surfer Jay Moriarity and the seminal summer when he trained to ride Mavericks. The film isn’t great but the surf scenes are really well shot.Chasing Mavericks

Pacific Rim: Giant robots fight alien monsters in a movie written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, what more do you need to know.PACIFIC RIM

The Frozen Ground: An Alaska State Trooper (Nicolas Cage) is on the hunt for a serial killer (John Cusack). Well acted but a bit dour and low key. Vanessa Hudgens gives a grat performance in a supporting role.The Frozen Ground

The Worlds End: Five school friends reunite to finish the epic pub crawl that defeated them 20 years earlier. The night is interrupted by an alien invasion. A fitting conclusion to the “Cornetto Trilogy”, it loses its way from time to time and not all the jokes work but on the whole it is fun and funny.The Worlds End

The Wolverine: A second solo outing for Wolverine is a massive improvement on the first film. Hugh Jackman is on great form in the title role and there is some great action, unfortunately there is also some bad CGI. Just enough of a taster to get me excited for Days of Future Past next year.The Wolverine

Frances Ha: Co written by star Greta Gerwig and director Noah Baumbach. There isn’t much in her way of plot, instead relying on some amusing scenarios and the charm of Gerwig. Directed with a soft touch that has been compared to Jean-Luc Godard than Woody Allen.Frances Ha

I am really tempted to pick The East or Frances Ha, but Pacific Rim was just too much fun and gets the July movie of the month award.pacific-rim-poster-banner

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Three years to the day after my first ever post (incidentally about the upcoming Oscars) I am here to announce the 1st Annual Groovers Movie Awards. No nominations, just winners. Ten categories, most of which are the same or similar to those in other awards. The award itself named the “Dom” is modelled after a Dom Pérignon bottle (you need to watch Fandango to understand the relevance) and will remain virtual unless Moët want to step in as a sponsor me.

Best Movie:

The Artist: A virtually silent black and white movie with a 1.37:1 aspect ratio about the end of the silent movie era doesn’t sound very exciting. The result is totally stunning, charming and funny. The overwhelming favourite for the pest picture Oscar. 

Best Director:

Martin Scorsese for Hugo: Martin Scorsese’s love letter to cinema is a stunning film beautifully made and even achieving the seemingly impossible task of making 3D work. 

Best Actress:

Tilda Swinton for We Need to Talk About Kevin: Missing out to Meryl Streep at the BAFTAs and completely overlooked by the Oscars, Tilda Swinton was my only contender for best actress.

Best Actor:

Brendan Gleeson for The Guard: Missing out to Jean Dujardin for The Artist in Golden Globes and pretty much overlooked by other awards, Brendan Gleeson reminded us what a great actor he is.

Best Screenplay:

Lynne Ramsay & Rory Kinnear for We Need to Talk About Kevin: Notable not only for how well written it is, but for what a tough job it must have been given the unusual structure of the source novel.

Best Foreign Language Film:

The Skin I live in: Winner of the BAFTA for Best Film Not in the English Language but not submitted for the equivalent Oscar (Spain chose to submit the as yet not released in the UK, Black Bread) sees Auteur Pedro Almodóvar at his bizarre best.

Best Documentary:

Senna: Not only the best documentary of the year, but the best documentary I have seen in many years.

Best Looking Movie:

Melancholia: An amalgam of many awards including Cinematography, Production Design and Art Direction. Melancholia wins the award for being the most beautiful looking movie of the year.

Movie Stars of the year:

Best actor and actress awards age given for the for individual outstanding performances but the movie star of the year award is given for an outstanding performances in multiple films in a year:

Jessica Chastain (The Help, The Tree of Life, The Debt, Take Shelter)

Michael Fassbender (Shame, X-Men: First Class, A Dangerous Method, Jane Eyre)

Fandango Award:

Fandango was writer/director Kevin Reynolds debut (and best) feature, and the first notable movie for star Kevin Costner. It gives its name to this award for the best breakout filmmakers of the year. The award is shared between two movies that interestingly were both co-written by their director and star:

Nick Damici and Jim Mickle for Stake Land

Mike Cahill and Brit Marling for Another Earth

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Driving home from a party promising young student Rhoda (Brit Marling) hears a radio DJ describe a new earth like planet that has been discovered. She is distracted by the sight of the planet and causes an accident killing the family of music professor John Burroughs (William Mapother – cousin of Tom Cruise). After being released from prison four years later, Rhoda is looking for direction and redemption in her meagre existence and in her menial job. She is also in pursuit of a place on the first flight to “Earth 2” for reasons that are not clear to her.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a sci-fi movie, the new planet is always there in the background and in the thoughts of the characters but just as in Lars von Trier’s Melancholia this is a movie about people. Taking successful and ambitious characters and breaking them creates an interesting dynamic that defines the tone of the film. Its hard to make a compelling movie if the audience dislikes or has no connection the main protagonist, but how do you make a connection with a character whose selfish and careless actions have had such an effect? Rhoda is isolated from society and her family, but the isolation is self imposed, as if she feels the enforced exile of her prison sentence was inadequate. We follow Rhoda throughout the movie, she is in just about every scene, with this exposure we are forced to explore the psychology of the character and her actions. With this, we see her crime and her search for redemption, the camera, and with it us the audience are both accuser and conscience for her actions and her character, this is how we feel for her.

All of this would have fallen flat with anything less than a strong central performance, however this movie is elevated by a stunning performance by Brit Marling, who wrote the movie along with (first time) director Mike Cahill. I don’t know if the film has the profile to be an Oscar contender, but it really should. Debuting at the Sundance Film Festival and being picked up by Fox Searchlight, it is an independent movie with a growing profile.

It is easy to draw comparisons with other movies like Melancholia, Rabbit Hole and even Journey to the Far Side of the Sun but this is very much its own movie whose meaning and message are open to interpretation, it is all the better for it. Whatever your thoughts I hope you agree that it is an engaging movie made by people who love what they are doing, most notably Brit Marling who is surly destined for stardom. 

Four Stars out of Five

★★★★

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