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Posts Tagged ‘First Man’

We have spent a lot of the 21st century gazing at the stars, or at least CGI versions of them.  The century started with the second and third movies in the Star Wars prequels trilogy, Attack of the Clones (2002), and Revenge of the Sith (2005).  A series of films that are constantly being revaluated, I’m not sure if they are officially good or bad at the moment.  Star Trek ran out of steam, with the last movie from the Next Generation Crew Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) not being very good.  But then in J. J. Abrams came along and with the help of some wibbily wobbly timey wimey stuff (if I may quote a TV series in an article about movies) created a new timeline to retell the story of the original crew of the enterprise.  The first film Star Trek (2009) was excellent, the second Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), then Abrams jumped ship and the third film Star Trek Beyond (2016) directed by Justin Lin was a partial return to form.  There may be a fourth film in the series eventually, it keeps getting pushed back or going into turnaround.  There may also be a further film in the universe that by Quentin Tarantino, that is looking less and less likely. Star Trek Wars

The reason J. J. Abrams jumped (space)ship, was to go and work for the enemy, Star Wars.  The director of the first and final movies in a new trilogy, a third and final trilogy to bring the Skywalker saga to an end.  The films came about after Disney’s acquisition of Lucas Film (for a staggering amount of money).  All three films have their fans and detractors in a hugely polarized and quite amusing social media battle among a certain type of fanboy.  For me, the middle film, The Last Jedi (2017) written and directed  by Rian Johnson is the best (and the most controversial).  The Force Awakens (2015) is the safest of the three, but good fun and it introduces some great characters, and brings back some old favourites.  The Rise of Skywalker (2019) is certainly the weakest but is still good fun and gets to a satisfying end (except for that certain group of fanboys).  Along the way, we also got two Star Wars Anthology films, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) tells the story of the events leading up to the origonal 1977 film, and for me is the best film outside the original trilogy.  The flipside to that, Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) is totally unnecessary origin story of fan favourite Han Solo.  it isn’t terrible, just pointless.The end of the Skywalker sagaNot satisfied with just Star Wars, Disney went to space with their other big acquired property: Marvel.  They started in 2014 when they took a less well know Marvel property Guardians of the Galaxy and had a smash hit with a more, fun and comic take on the superhero genre.  a sequel Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 (2017) followed.  To be fair parts of The Avengers movies were also set in space, and Thor is from another planet.  It wasn’t until Thor: Ragnarok (2017), Taika Waititi’s brilliant but bonkers take on the character that you would call it a space adventure.  After a decade, and about 20 movies Disney finally gave a woman a leading role in a Marvel movie.  While a lot of the movie is based on earth, Captain Marvel (2019) is an intergalactic character, as is Marvels big bad Thanos.  All the characters of the MCU came together to fight an intergalactic battle with the big purple one in Avengers Infinity War (2018) and the biggest film of all time (if you don’t adjust for inflation) Avengers Endgame 2019.  That brings us nicely onto Avatar (2009), with an even higher boxoffice if you adjust for inflation.  James Cameron’s first movie since 1997 when he made a little film about a shipwreck.  As you would expect from Cameron, it made great advances in effects and technology, especially in 3D.  I am not a fan.  As yet he hasn’t made another film yet, but understand he is filming about 100 sequels back to back with the first due for release in about two years. Marvel goes to spaceDC’s ventures into space were less successful.  The Green Lantern (2011) about a group of intergalactic supper powered policemen was rubbish.  Man of Steel (2013) was a reboot of a 1970’s movie about a man called Kal-El who is sent to earth as a baby before his home planet is destroyed.  He ends up fighting against bodies from his home world.  It isn’t bad, but not as good as the 1978, and 1980 movies, and like those movies, all subsequent sequels are terrible. DC and AliensRidley Scott decided that we were all wrong, the most interesting thing about his Movie Alien (1979), and James Cameron’s sequel to it Aliens (1987), wasn’t the Xenomorph, or Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley.  It wasn’t the brilliant world building of the story where corporations are more powerful than countries.  He decided the derelict alien ship, and how the Aliens got there was more important.  He then gave us two extremely average films, Prometheus (2012), and Alien Covenant (2017).  There are some excellent characters that aren’t used very well, and some who don’t know how to run to the side.  almost realLets not be too tough on Ridley Scott, he has given us an excellent movie in the genre, The Martian (2015).  The story of a man left behind on Mars.  This is part of a crop of Sci-Fi movies that feel more realistic and closer to where we are now than Star Wars or Star Trek.  The pick of these for me was Gravity (2013).  A film so spectacular in IMAX 3D (the only good 3D experience I have had) that I have not re-watched it again, it just won’t be the same on TV.  Other films in this sub genre could include Christopher Nolan’s excellent Interstellar (2014), Danny Boyle’s underrated Sunshine (2007), Claire Denis bleak but brilliant High Life (2018), and James Gray’s disappointing Ad Astra (2019).   A film doesn’t have to be fiction, or particularly outlandish to be compelling, providing it is told well, and there are two such examples from the last two years: Damien Chazelle’s telling of the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong in the film First Man (2018), and the documentary on the same subject: Apollo 11 (2019).  The latter is breathtaking look at the mission using stunning NASA images, no talking heads, or voiceover. smerfs monkeys aliens and the sunI wouldn’t include Passengers (2016) in the list of realist sci-fi movies, as it is too glossy and Sci-Fi, it is however worth seeing for the interesting plot, that is more disturbing the more you think about it.  Part of the premise of the film is people in hypersleep on their way to a distant planet.  Obviously something always goes wrong in these movies.  Others worth watching are: Pandorum (2009) a film that takes these ideas, and gives them a horror and survival adventure spin.  Pitch Black (2000) is an even better take on the horror space adventure, possibly the best and most original since the first two Alien films.  It’s sequel The Chronicles of Riddick (2004), was terrible, but the third film Riddick (2013) isn’t bad, although its attempt to recreate the original are a little forced.  Life (2017) has the almost real world setting, a fictionalised version of The International Space Station, it rapidly turns into Alien when an alien life form gets loose.  It isn’t Alien, but it isn’t bad. Horror in spaceThe man who gave us The Fifth Element (1997) Luc Besson, was back this century, with another bold and bonkers tale: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017).  The film had mixed reviews, as Besson’s work often does, I liked it.  The title is a little misleading and under serves one of its characters, based on the French science fiction comics series Valérian and Laureline; Laureline is the more interesting character and probably has a larger part in the story than Valérian.  That asside, it is bright and bold and like nothing else, except maybe The Fifth Element!a mix of fact and fantasy (1)Saving the best for last.  When I went to see Joss Whedon’s Serenity (2005), I had not seen (or even heard of) Firefly, I have since watched the whole (short) series more than once.  The movie is nothing short of a masterpiece.  It works whether you have seen the TV show or not.  It is all the more impressive, as it was Whedon’s feature debut as a director.  The budget was less than $40million or about a quarter of Revenge of the Sith that came out the same year.  This doesn’t show, as the film looks amazing, largely thanks to clever photography and practice sets/effects over CGI.  Ticking every box for a space adventure, and a western, the film is fun, and often very funny, but there is a far deeper message about society, about right and wrong, but it is far more nuanced than anything you will get from Disney or Star Wars, it isn’t black and white, or light and dark, The Alliance is not The Empire!SerenityI have probably missed lots, but these are the ones that spring to mind.  I pleased to say the genre is in good health at the movies, and on TV, but that will have to be an entire article in itself. 

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Best Supporting Actress Nominees ranked in my order of preference:

  1. RACHEL WEISZ – The Favourite
  2. REGINA KING – If Beale Street Could Talk
  3. EMMA STONE – The Favourite
  4. AMY ADAMS – Vice
  5. MARINA DE TAVIRA – RomaACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

And the omissions that I think deserved a nomination:

  1. CLAIRE FOY – First Man
  2. TONI COLLETTE – Hereditary
  3. CYNTHIA ERIVO – BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALEACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE omissions

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With fourteen screenings, October is my busiest month of the year to date.  Four of the fourteen were reissues of older horror movies (not eligible for my movie of the month). 

Black ’47 – 1847, returning home from fighting for the British Imperial Army a soldier finds Ireland in the grip of the Great Famine.  A series of events set him on revenge mission.  Taking all the tropes of a revenge western and transposing them to Ireland is surprisingly effective.  As you would expect the film doesn’t shy away from song violence’s, what is more surprising is the snippets of uncomfortable history that it manages to incorporate.  Not the widest of releases, but worth searching out.Black '47

A Star is Born – I think we can skip the synopsis, I think everyone knows the story by now.  Lady Gaga is getting all the plaudits for her performance, but it is also a career defining performance from Bradley Cooper.  Coopers direction is also confident and well measured.  Helping the film over so many movies about singers, the songs are good, and the live performances (shot at real festivals) really work.  It’s not without problems: Beyond Gaga, there are almost no female characters, and the final act is a little rushed and as such doesn’t quiet earn its ending.  Not the five star masterpiece some people are claiming, but a really good film.  I look forward to seeing more of Gaga in front of the camera, and Cooper behind it. A Star is Born

The Wife – An author (Jonathan Pryce) and his wife (Glenn Close) travel to Stockholm where the former has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.  As the cracks in their relationship become clear, we learn via flashback how they dot to this point.  While there are (unsurprising)plot revelations along the way, this is more about character than plot.  The smallest of gestures tell a story, and it is an enthralling one largely thanks fantastic performances from Pryce, and particular Close.  How has she not won an Oscar yet?The Wife

The Hate U Give – A black teenage girl lives a double life, she goes to school in an affluent area, but lives in the deprived mainly black neighbourhood.  Her life is turned upside down when she is witness to the fatal shooting of a friend at a traffic stop.  The important story is poorly served by a disjointed plot and a heavy-handed narrative.  On a positive note the acting is pretty good, particularly from Amandla Stenberg in the lead. The Hate U Give

Halloween (1978) – Never one to turn down an opportunity to see a classic on the big screen, I visited my local multiplex for a 40th Anniversary Screening of Halloween.  Blumhouse Productions have an MO, making moderate budget genre movies, some of which breakout and make a shed load of money.  This isn’t a new thing, Blumhouse didn’t invent the concept, 40 years ago one of the best examples was made by a then up and coming director, John Carpenter.  I probably don’t need to give a plot synopsis, but will for those who are new to this classic: As a child, Michael Myers kills his teenage sister on Halloween night, fifteen years later he escapes and returns to his hometown.  Halloween didn’t invent the slasher movie, but it certainly revolutionised and popularised the genre making it a mainstay of horror throughout the 1980’s.  Costing around $300,000, and grossing $70 million (when you adjust for inflation, that’s around, $1.2million and $300million respectably), it is actually more fugal and more profitable than most Blumhouse movies.  It has spawned multiple sequels (with another due later this month), a remake, and countless imitators, does it deserve all this?  Hell yes, it is a true horror masterpiece.  Modern audiences may find the deliberate pacing slow, they are wrong, not a second of the 91minute runtime is wasted.  Michael Myers is a blank cipher with little back-story and no discernible motive.  He is a classic movie monster, but one all the more frightening because unlike Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, or the Wolf-Man, he is just a man, he is a real world boogeyman.  The films emotion comes from Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence, but the Steadicam mounted camera is as much a character as any of these people.  If you haven’t seen it, look it out now before seeing the latest sequel. Halloween 1978

Bad Times at the El Royale – Noir movies are full of down on their luck characters, the El Royale is a down on its luck location, a Hotel half in Nevada, half in California.  As four disparate, and somewhat desperate people find themselves at the titular establishment the story unfolds in carefully orchestrated chapters.  There is a point where you would be forgiven for thinking you are watching sub Tarantino, but then the pieces fall into place and you realise that it is better than anything Quentin Tarantino has made since 2009.  Then it suddenly gets even better.  Try and avoid the trailer. BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYAL

First Man – Spoiler alert, Neil Armstrong makes it to the moon.  Despite what the trailer or the poster tells you, this isn’t the story of how that happened.  Along the way, we do get a whistle-stop tour of the events starting around the time of the Gemini VII.  It is more the story of the man and his emotional journey.  The emotion of the story is kept in check partly by director Damien Chazelle, but mainly by the outstanding reserved performance from Ryan Gosling.  Claire Foy is also outstanding in the small part she is given.  A first rate film, but one I appreciated more than enjoyed, and respected more than loved. First Man

Mandy – Marmite! I’m not sure how well known the expression Marmite is known outside the UK, for those who don’t know, Marmite is a food spread made from yeast extract.  In the 1990’s it ran an advertising campaign based around how you either Love it, or Hate it.  The same is probably going to be true of Mandy.  I am not going to give a synopsis beyond saying it is a revenge thriller.  After seeing the film, the first thing I thought was that was the most Nicolas Cage film I have ever seen.  It therefore came as a surprise, that not only was the part not written for him, but that director Panos Cosmatos wanted him for a different character.  A totally bonkers film that is both a visual treat and a total mindfuck.  It does have some issues though.  For a start its 30 minutes too long.  The pacing is all over the place.  Expect to see this film on best and worst lists for the year. Mandy

Night of the Living Dead (1968) – 50 years ago was year zero for the modern zombie movie.  Just about every zombie movie in the past half century draws influence from George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.  But how does it hold up as a film in its own right?  Shown in a 4K restoration, it was as good as ever, and looked better than ever.  Working as a visceral horror and a allegory of a nation tearing itself apart.  A perfect horror movie. Night of the Living Dead

Halloween – A sequel to the 1978 masterpiece that ignores all the previous sequels, even going as far as debunking some of the things that happened in the other sequels as rumours.  The idea is good, and Jamie Lee Curtis is outstanding.  The story is a little all over the place lacking the brilliant simplicity of the original.  An excellent final act is preceded by a slow fist act and a confused second.  It is however, never boring like many modern horrors.Halloween

Venom – Venom was poorly served in the terrible Spider-Man 3, in a post Deadpool world, this is the chance to make a funny and fun super(anti)hero movie, it fails.  The plot is a little plodding, the action isn’t a patch on anything Marvel has done in the past decade.  It does however have an ace up its sleeve, Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, and Riz Ahmed, all of whom are always worth watching.  A mid credit scene suggests a sequel, with the origin out of the way, hopefully a second film will live up to the promise. Venom

Bohemian Rhapsody – Biography of the band Queen, most notably its legendry front man Freddie Mercury.  It avoids any major controversy as you would expect for a biopic where two of the producers appear as characters in the story (Brian May and Roger Taylor), this doesn’t stop it from being enjoyable.  The acting is good, particularly Rami Malek as Mercury and the recreation of Live Aid is spectacular. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

The Fog (1980) – The second in a series of John Carpenter movies to receive a 4K restoration.  A small town celebrating its centenary is enveloped by a fog that brings with it a reckoning from the past.  A spooky almost old-fashioned horror that is relatively tame, but enjoyable none the less.  Notable of the first onscreen pairing of Jamie Lee Curtis and her mother Janet Leigh. The Fog

The Evil Dead (1981) – Five young friends unwittingly release and are possessed my daemons while on holiday in a cabin in the woods.  The effects show their budget, the acting isn’t always great and the editing is conspicuous.  None of this stops it being a stone cold classic.   The Evil Dead

While A Star is Born and First man are getting all the plaudits, the one I enjoyed most and my movie of the month is: Bad Times at the El RoyaleBad Times at the El Royale (1)

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