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Posts Tagged ‘jessica chastain’

X-Men Franchise Re-Watch

I have spent the last few days re-watching the X-Men movies, here are a few thoughts.  The MCU has reshaped cinema, nine of the twenty  movies have grossed over $1billion.  Their success is responsible, not only for imitators, but also setting a new benchmark for film budgets, and what is deemed successful.  Back when a comic book movie looked like Batman & Robin (1997) this would not have seemed possible.  A series of events, or to be more precise films set the foundations that made the MCU possible.  I believe it started in 1998 with Blade, but there are two other franchises that were the key stepping stones: Spider-Man starting in 2002, and X-Men franchise starting in 2000.  At the time I knew the X-Men better than most MCU characters, I’m sure the same is true for a lot of viewers.  From that point of view, it was probably a safer franchise to begin with.  But they still started off small with relatively small budgets.  After all, none of the X-Men were as big or well known as DC’s big hitters, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, or Marvels big two, Spider-Man, and The Hulk! It’s worth remembering, this is all before Marvel Studios, when Marvel properties were made by other companies under complicated licence agreements that are still being unpicked to this day.  The X-Men movies were co-productions between Marvel Entertainment and 20th Century Fox.   Marvel, 20th Century Fox, and lots of companies are now owned by The Walt Disney Studios.  That’s enough of the business, what about the movies? Here goes:

X-Men (2000) – The first movie X-Men was limited by a relatively small budget.  While $75million is a lot of money (think how many indie movies you could make for that), it is relatively small by blockbuster standards, around half that of The World Is Not Enough (1999), the most recent Bond film at the time.  The financial limitations probably helped with the creativity of writer/direct Bryan Singer, and he his co-writers David Hayter, and Tom SeSanto.  There are a few key reasons the film works: The story starts with the X-Men as a established group, not an origin story.  But we as the viewers have a way into both the world of the X-Men (both the group, and the world they inhabit) with minimal exposition.  We are introduced via Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Rogue (Anna Paquin).

With a vast array of characters within the comic book universe all with their own abilities, it would have been easy to flood the story with them.  Partly due to the limited budget the groups are kept small, with the X-Men consisting of Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Storm(Halle Berry), and Cyclops (James Marsden).  The Brotherhood of Mutants are Magneto (Ian McKellen), Mystique(Rebecca Romijn), Sabretooth (Tyler Mane), and Toad (Ray Park).  This restraint and the benefit of is shown in later films when the cast gets bloated and it detracts from the story.  This leads nicely onto the next point, the casting is perfect throughout, with a special mention for Stewart, McKellen and Jackman.  The real revelation is Hugh Jackman, a late replacement for Dougray Scott who was stuck doing reshoots on Mission: Impossible II (2000).  At 6’2″ Jackman is a foot taller than the character in the comic book, this is never an issue.  At the time of the first movie, he was a relative unknown, the only thing I had seen him in at the dime was Paperback Hero, a romantic comedy drama.

The plot is relatively simple in a world that is just learning about mutants, but doesn’t accept them there are two opposing views Xavier who believes humans and mutants can live together, and Magneto who believes mutants are superior and should rule the world.  The film is filled with all the ideas that are at the heart of the comic books, the most overt of those are acceptance for people who are perceived to be different.  That people are stronger when they work together as a team.  There is also a recurring idea that no one is all bad, this depicted by Charles’ refusal to give up on Eric/Magneto, and significantly Charles winning in a game of chess.

X2 (2003) – The X-Men were back just two years later, again with Bryan Singer at the helm.  There are two references to the Arthurian novel The Once and Future King (1958) by T.H. White.  Firstly we see Eric/Magneto reading it early in the movie, then at the end Charles asks his class of they know of the story.  While not a blueprint for the X-Men, or the movie X2, there are similarities.  Charles’ School is clearly Camelot, and the X-Men the Knights of the round table.  But who is who.  Charles is not Arthur as you may first think, he is Merlin.  We see in both this and the first film other taking the public lead, such as when Jean Grey address government.  Charles is the power in the background, he also fights with his mind not with his body.  We then have the love triangle between Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot. Cyclops, Storm and Logan.  Most importantly, in this sits Magneto.  But who is Magneto in this analogy?  He is probably a combination of Morgan le Fay (Sorceress, half-sister and sometime ally, sometimes antagonist of Arthur.  Mother of Mordred) and Mordred (Arthur’s illegitimate son who ultimately kills and is killed by Arthur), but who he is, is less important than who he thinks he is! He believes himself to be Merlin and/or Arthur, he even has his own round-table in the form of the Brotherhood of Mutants.  But he can never be Arthur, as his table is never truly round, he is always at the head of it!

Longer and with a higher budget, it is the step up you expect from a sequel.  The story is a little more complicated both telling its own story, and delving into Logan’s back story.  With a new antagonist, Magneto teams up with Charles and X-Men.  This is one of the most interesting things about the film, the filmmakers understand the character.  Magneto never goes all the way to Charles’ side, they team up to fight a mutual enemy, but he is always on his own side, or more accurately on the side of mutants, at least from his own point of view.  The visual effects also go up a notch.  Amazingly this does not come at a cost, the film is as good, potentially better than the first film.  The notable additions to the cast are Alan Cumming as Kurt Wagner aka Nightcrawler.  Brian Cox as Colonel William Stryker and Kelly Hu as Yuriko Oyama aka Lady Deathstrike (I don’t think she is actually referred to by this name in the film).

X-Men: The Last Stand (2009) – Bryan Singer left the franchise to make the oh, so dull Superman Returns and handed directing duties to Brett Ratner.  Although not as bad as I remember, the film isn’t great.  To the credit of the earlier films, recognising that film is its own medium, they did not use existing stories from the comic books, they created cinematic ones in keeping with the mythology of the characters.  The biggest issue with this film, they took a beloved story, “The Dark Phoenix Saga” and developed it, poorly!

The centre of the plot revolves around a “cure” to the mutant gene.  This results in some interesting questions, the most overt being the mutants being a metaphor for homosexuality and the idea that you can’t cure someone who isn’t sick! while touched upon, it is never really explored.  The plot is unnecessarily  bloated, as is the cast of characters.  To its credit, the film looks good, and the visual effects are good, except the de-ageing of Stewart and McKellen that may have been groundbreaking in its day but is truly horrific.

As the previous films worked for their efficient use of characters, this film is dragged back by them, and the need to give them something to do.  Even killing two major characters, and sidelining two more early in the story there are still too many.  The most notable addition to the cast was Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde, a mutant with an ability to walk through walls, or to be precise through just about anything.  Not a new character having had a small part in previous films, but a huge character within the comic books, and portrayed by Page who was on the cusp of superstardom.  As with the comic books, by the time the film was make Logan/Wolverine had become the fans favourite.  In the first film he was the main character (although it could easily have been made Rogue’s film).  The second film had a plot that easily put him to the for front, but here, it always feels forced.  It was clear, Wolverine needed is own movie, and the X-Men needed a to tell a story without him.  Both of these were to come, to good and bad effect!

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) – While I had seen the first two movies many times, and The Last Stand twice, this was my first re-watch of Wolverine.  After a cold open showing the origin of Logan, and Victor Creed/Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber), we get the best part of the film.  The opening credit sequence is truly excellent.  Showing the brothers Logan and Creed fighting together in the American Civil War, WWI, WWI and Vietnam; each time showing Creed getting more bloodthirsty.  The first act with the pair fighting as part of Team X led by Major William Stryker (same character as Colonel Stryker from X2, now played by Danny Huston).  This is brief but good as is the set-up as we see Logan try to live a normal life also works, it is when he gets his adamantium, once Logan becomes Wolverine/Weapon X that the film loses its way.

This is the film that introduces Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) to cinema audiences.  Referred to as Wade Wilson, Weapon XI, and Deadpool, this is the movie that infuriated the fans.  Understandably as it is a million miles from ” the merc with a mouth”.  This is unfortunate, in the early scenes show promise, after they sewed his mouth shut, it was never going to work! Taylor Kitsch’s Remy LeBeau/Gambit isn’t as far from the comic book character, but still isn’t great.  Over a decade later,  the idea of a Taylor Kitsch Gambit movie still keeps comes up every few years but has never happened.  Liev Schreiber is very good as Creed, and would probably have made a really good Logan.

An interesting point of note is the use of the Three Mile Island accident.  This is the first, but not the last time the franchise incorporated real events within the narrative.  The fact that the first (nearly) half of the film is good, but is persevered to be terrible proves the theory that a good final act can save (our perception) of a film, and a poor ending will destroy a film.

X-Men: First Class (2011) – After eleven years, two good, and two not so good movies the franchise took a new direction.  Matthew Vaughn steps into the director’s chair and wrote the screenplay along with Jane Goldman, Ashley Miller, and Zack Stentz.  Expanding on the opening of the first movie with a young Eric/Magneto discovering his powers in Nazi-occupied Poland tells us we are in the same universe as the original films.  Recasting with younger actors and telling the origin story of both The X-Men, and Magneto.  Following the previous films use of Mile Island accident, this film doubles down, and uses The Cuban Missile Crisis.  James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender have the unenviable task of stepping into the shoes off Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as younger versions of Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr, they are both excellent, particularly Fassbender.  There is more than a hint of James Bond about the 1960’s setting.  Every time I see the film I think how good Michael Fassbender would be as Bond.  The film also gives a new and interesting take on Mystique’s origin and her relationship with both Xavier and Magneto.  With hindsight she is the most interesting casting; it was Jennifer Lawrence’s first big budget movie, when she only had one Oscar nomination (Winter’s Bone), and before The Hunger Games.  The main antagonists are Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) and in true Bond Villain style his henchwoman Emma Frost (January Jones).  Rose Byrne gets to have fun as Moira MacTaggert, it’s a shame she is so underused in future films.

There are so many things about the film that shouldn’t work from the training montages, the period setting, playing with history, and the actors playing a version of the characters to fit with the older versions; but strangely it does work making it one of the best films of the series.

The Wolverine (2013) –  Just over a year after taking part in the Normandy landings, Logan finds himself as a prisoner of war in Nagasaki in August 9 1945, not the time you want to be in Nagasaki.  Most of the film is set in the present day, after the events of The Last Stand.  Following the events in Nagasaki seen at the start of the movie, Logan finds himself in Tokyo.  This is no great stretch for the character, within the comic book Logan has a lot of stories set in Japan and is closely associated with Samurai and Ronin culture, the character has always essentially been a Ronin.

The most stand alone movie in the franchise up to this point, none of the characters introduced appear again, the only character from previous movies is Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) who appears in Logan’s head.  The most interesting of the rest of the cast are the only other mutants to appear in the film (other than a cameo).  Yukio (Rila Fukushima) A precognitive mutant and member of a deadly assassins clan.  And, Dr. Green / Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) one of the movies main antagonists.

A personal story for Logan on a smaller scale than the other movies within the universe, it is more in keeping with a standalone story.  Logan’s “healing factor” has always been his key to his identity, to take that away should diminish the character, in a way it does, but in doing so, it actually enhances the film by raising the stakes.  The whole film, both in plot, and execution feels more grounded and real (until the final act) than previous films in the franchise.  The Shinkansen fight is excellent. Sadly, the final act is terrible, both in story and visual effects, but the MCU struggles with final acts too, so it isn’t exactly unique!

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) – Days of Future Past sounds like a terrible idea.  Bring the old cast, last seen in The Last Stand, together with the new cast of First Class, and tell a much loved epic tale from the X-Men comic books. However, it really works and is if not the best, close to the best movie in the franchise.  Simon Kinberg provided the screenplay, based on a story by himself along with Jane Goldman, and Matthew Vaughn.  Vaughn was set to direct but agreed to hand it back to the boss, producer and director of the first two movies Bryan Singer.  Understanding that cinema is a very different medium to comic books, the writers took the brave, but ultimately correct decision to not tell the same story as the comic book.  Using a lot of the same characters, and using the idea of travelling back in time to prevent an assignation in the past to save the present/future.

The cast is huge: The bulk of the movie taking place in 1973 with Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Raven / Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), and Hank / Beast (Nicholas Hoult).  All are given plenty to do, and most importantly is in keeping with their character, nobody is making up the numbers.  In the furure section we have lots of recognisable characters Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman – who due to the characters slow aging is able to play the part in past and future), Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Storm (Halle Berry), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Bobby / Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Colossus (Daniel Cudmore).  They are joined by Bishop (Omar Sy), Blink (Bingbing Fan), Sunspot (Adan Canto), and Warpath (Booboo Stewart).  The past section also includes a small part for Peter / Quicksilver (Evan Peters), who in one scene steals the movie.

The film looks, and sounds spectacular.  The visual effects are the best we have seen within the franchise, and the photography and production design are both fantastic.  Thanks to changes in the timeline, this film undoes a lot of the narrative of the previous movies leaving (two in particular) of the original characters in a better place than we last saw them.  Given this was the last time the majority of them were to be used in the franchise, this is great fan service without pandering.   The story also leaves the door open to make future stories easier without having to worry about the fitting the continuity,  Sadly they didn’t exactly make the most of it.

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) – Be careful what you wish for, The Empire review of Days of Future Past ends with the line “We want X-Men: Apocalypse, now.” Sadly the film is terrible, in many ways the weakest X-Men movie.

Oscar Isaac plays the title villain, En Sabah Nur / Apocalypse.  He is hid beneath lots of CGI and makeup, and frankly isn’t very good. Fan favourite from the comics Psylocke (Olivia Munn) is given a sexy outfit, but no character.  She is given more to do than Mei Melançon did in The Last Stand, we know nothing of her.  Even the outfit doesn’t work, it looks like it doe on the pages of the comic book, but not in the flesh.  And that’s kind of the problem with the film it is all big, bold bright, and brash, you would be forgiven for thinking Michael Bay had directed it, it was actually Bryan Singer.  And that’s the sad thing about it, we know Singer can do so much better,  Michael Fassbender gets a couple of brilliant moments that remind us of this.

The cast is huge again.  As well as the usual suspects, Lucas Till, who sat out the last movie returns as Alex Summers / Havok.  He is joined by new younger versions of characters we have seen in the original three movies: Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Scott Summers / Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Kurt Wagner / Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Ororo Munroe / Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Angel (Ben Hardy) Kodi Smit-McPhee, and I believe for the first time in the movies Jubilee (Lana Condor). Evan Peters gets to do another set piece as Peter Maximoff / Quicksilver, taken on its own merit, it is the best seen in the movie, but offers nothing new, and isn’t as good as what we saw in the last movie.  There is no place for Wolverine within the corner they have painted themselves into with the timeline; rather than embracing this they squeeze him into the story.

The bigger, bolder and brasher it got the less I cared about it.  A sad end to Bryan Singer’s time at the helm of the X-Universe!  Let’s it to one side and remember the three great films he gave us.

Logan (2017) – Firstly, it is worth mentioning, for my re-view, I watched Logan Noir, the black and white version that comes on a separate disk with the Blu-Ray version.  It’s the first time I have watched it this way.  While it isn’t as spectacular as Fury Road: Black and Chrome, it does add to the atmosphere of the movie, and what a movie!  While I have described Days of Future Past as the best X-Men movie, Logan is something different, in a lot of ways, it isn’t an X-Men movie, it doesn’t even look like a comic book movie.  Written (along with Scott Frank and Michael Green) and directed by James Mangold who was also responsible for the previous movie, The Wolverine.  Not only is this Logan’s  most personal story, it is also the most grounded movie within the X-Men universe.  The cinematography by long-time Ridley Scott collaborator John Mathieson is fantastic (in both black and white or colour).  The low angles give a feeling of space reminiscent of with a western.  This is further enhanced by big mood skies straight out of an Ansel Adams photograph.

Set in a post super hero universe where very few mutants remain, and a 90 year old Professor X and Logan are the last of the X-Men.  Charles is struggling to contain his powers and Logan’s powers are fading as he is poisoned by his Adamantium.  There is often a theme in movies like this where the hero has to balance their own survival with a reluctant search for redemption associated with helping somebody else.   This comes in the form of Laura (Dafne Keen – who went on to play Lyra Belacqua in His Dark materials) recognisable to comic book fans as X23, a young mutant with abilities with a striking resemblance to Logan’s.  Richard E. Grant is wonderfully sinister as the movies main villain Dr. Rice.  Other notsble cast members are Boyd Holbrook as Pierce, the main henchman, and Stephen Merchant as Caliban, a mutant friend of Charles and Logan.

This isn’t a comic book movie for all.  New fans of the genre, those who have come along since the start of the MCU, and DCEU will not find what they are used to.  But it’s the comic book movie we need, one that doesn’t end with a giant something hovering over a major city threatening to destroy the world.  The stakes may be smaller, but not for those involved, making it more personal, and relatable.  Even before the Disney takeover, Hugh Jackman had decided to end his time as Logan/Wolverine, this is a brilliant and fitting end to his seventeen years portraying the character, he is going to be a hard act to follow in the inevitable remake.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) – OK, time to confess, I didn’t re-watch all the movies.  Its less than a year since I saw Dark Phoenix.  It is only available to me by rental, which I wasn’t prepared to pay for as quite frankly, it wasn’t very good.  This is a real shame, it represented so much: The final film in both the reboot since First Class, and of the whole franchise before Marvel/Disney take back the franchise, But most importantly a chance to undo The Last Stand, and tell a better version of the Dark Phoenix Saga.  Most of the cast of the last movie return including Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, and Michael Fassbender, they are all good.  But Jessica Chastain is totally wasted.  This won’t be the last time we see the X-Men, but it is most likely the last time we see these actors portray them, the deserved a better send-off.DEADPOOL

Depending on your point of view, the bonkers, but brilliant Deadpool (2016), and the pretty good sequel Deadpool 2 (2018) may be set within the X-Men universe, but that’s for another day.

As mentioned, last year The Walt Disney Company acquired 20th Century Fox, and with it the film rights for the X-Men.  They soon put all film production within the franchise on hold, eventually cancelling all future films except The New Mutants which was already in the can.  The New Mutants is yet so see the light of day following multiple delays and some re-shoots.  This is despite a 2017 trailer promising a release date April the following year.  Its a great shame as the trailer actually looks good, more of a haunted house horror than a superhero movie.  The two most interesting projects to be cancelled were: X-23; James Mangold was to write and direct the continuing story of Laura aka X-23 from them movie Logan.  And, a Kitty Pryde movie.  Had it been made, it would probably have been an origin story as studios seem to like, if that was the case, it is no great loss, but if they were thinking of a stand alone movie with the character from the existing franchise played by Ellen Page, that would have been worth seeing.  Sadly it is not to be!  There will be new X-Men movies made by Marvel/Disney, I just hope they keep them out of the MCU, as the franchises are probably best not mixed.

 

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Dom 5There is a little academy you may have heard of who plan to announce the nominees for their film awards this week, I think they call them the Oscars.  Before that we have the Seventh Annual Groovers Movie Awards.  As ever all categories, eligibility and winners are decided by me:

Best Movie: Blade Runner 2049: Blade Runner (1982) didn’t need a sequel,  not only is this movie a worthy sequel, but it continues the story that enhances rather than diminishes the original, continuing, even expanding on the themes.  As you would expect from director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins, it looks amazing.  A love it or hate it type film; like the original, it may have underperformed at the box-office, it will find its audience in time. Blade+Runner+2049-1

Best Director: Chan-wook Park for The Handmaiden.  A labyrinthine tale that never loses its focus and always holds the audience’s attention.  Based on Sarah Waters novel Fingersmith, this adaptation sees the setting change from Victorian England to Japanese occupied Korea, making the most of the setting, the film looks amazing.  Possibly Park’s best movie since Oldboy. Chan-wook Park for The Handmaiden

Best Actor/Actress: Casey Affleck won the academy award for Manchester by the Sea, a result I certainly wouldn’t argue with.  Jessica Chastain gave to fantastic performances in Miss Sloane and Molly’s Game. Casey Affleck and Jessica Chastain

Best Dialogue: Aaron Sorkin (writer/director) Molly’s Game.  In his directorial debut, Sorkin is helped by his actors: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner who makes his machine gun dialogue sound amazing. 'Molly's Game' New York Premiere

Best Editing: Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss (editors) Edgar Wright (writer/director), Julian Slater (sound designer), for Baby Driver.  I have always been an advocate of the idea that the best editing is invisible.  Baby Drive breaks this rule with very conspicuous editing; there are long takes, single take tracking shots, quick cuts all done in time with the music.  It could have been a disaster, it’s actually a masterpiece.   Baby Driver

Best Comedy: The Death of StalinArmando Iannucci made an interesting choice with his cast using a mix of British and American accents in this story of the power struggle in the days that followed the titular death of Stalin. Farce and satire in equal parts, with a really dark undercurrent, the risk pays off, it is brilliant and hilarious.The-Death-of-Staling-Banner-Poster

Special Award: Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson.  This special award is for making interesting movie choices.  A decade ago Stewart and Pattinson became two of the biggest stars in the world thanks to the Twilight movies.  Choosing to work with directors including: James Gray, David Cronenberg, Olivier Assayas, Kelly Reichardt and Woody Allen.  They have continued making interesting and extremely good movie:  Stewart worked with Olivier Assayas for a second time with Personal Shopper, while Pattinson made Good Time with The Safdie Brothers. Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson

Fandango Award: William Oldroyd, Alice Birch, and Florence Pugh – 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 film-makers of the year:  William Oldroyd, Alice Birch, and Florence Pugh are director, writer and star of Lady Macbeth respectively.   The captivating movie is the first feature for Oldroyd and Birch, and the first starring role for  Pugh.William Oldroyd Alice Birch Florence Pugh

Dom 5

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I read an article about Molly Bloom a couple of years ago when her book Molly’s Game was first released.  A truly interesting story, I would have been keen to see a film based on it; but then things got interesting, it was announced that it was to be Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut. Molly's Game poster

After a freak accident caused the end of her dreams of becoming an Olympic Skier, Molly Bloom decided to take a year out somewhere warm.  Finding herself working in LA as a PA.  Her boss orders her to help run his poker game that features a few celebrities.  Before long, thanks to intellect, drive and organisation she took over the game and transformed it from a relatively friendly high stakes game into the biggest game in town.  Things go really well, until they don’t.     molly's game jessica chastain

It has been reported the real life game featured A list Hollywood stats, hedge fund managers, politicians and wealthy businessmen.  The names have been changed to protect the (not so) innocent.  Even West Hollywood’s infamous Viper Room (the venue for the original game) has been rebranded for the movie.  This anonymity becomes a far more important element of the story later on.  The most notable of the players known as Player X (Michael Cera) is portrayed as a grade one asshole, he clearly based on a real Hollywood star, do your own research if you are interested in finding out who he is, it isn’t difficult. molly's game michael cera

As you would expect in a movie written by Aaron Sorkin, the dialogue is intelligent, snappy and extremely fast paced.  It is an absolute joy to hear it spoken by supremely talented actors Jessica Chastain in the title role as Molly Bloom, Idris Elba as her lawyer Charlie Jaffey and Kevin Costner in a small but memorable part as her farther Larry Bloom.  What I didn’t expect was the structure.  Told with that rarest of things, a voiceover that works.  at first the flashbacks seemed a little disjointed, as the film found its feet at became clear that it was telling a story at three different points in time, not just flashbacks.  This was easy to follow and well balanced, as a viewer, I never wanted to be in a different part of the story. MOLLY'S GAME

I was amazed to learn that it clocks in at 2 hours 20, it felt more like 100 minutes.  With the dialogue coming at million miles an hour it packs a lot in this time.  The best of the story comes with the interactions between Chastain and Elba.  Elba even gets the obligatory grandstand Lawyers speech, this is far measured than you would expect, but no less satisfying.  It is helps that it is shot with a reasonable amount of visual flair without being overly showy.  Aaron Sorkin’s script is based on Bloom’s book so is understandably sympathetic to her.  It is also a product of its time; wrapped before the recent scandals, there is little mention of the players attitude towards women, something Bloom has mentioned in the past.  It does however have an interesting and not particularly favourable comment on how the American justice system works.

Not without problems, but all things considered a classy and impressive film elevated by fantastic dialogue and brilliant acting.  It is also great fun to watch, with some great comic moments.  On the evidence of this I am keen to see what Aaron Sorkin comes up with next and hope it is also in the director’s chair. 

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Last week I wrote about how some stories are better on the page than the screen and that some novels should not be adapted, today I come to you with a book that is crying out to be adapted. Wool by Hugh Howey. Given the quote from the Sunday times on the cover “The Next Hunger Games” I think it is only a matter of time. A well known online encyclopaedia suggests the film rights have been purchased by 20th Century Fox “with director Ridley Scott and [Screenwriter] Steve Zaillian expressing interest”. The book started life as a short story, self published on through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing system. It proved so popular that Howey begun adding to it until it became Wool, a five hundred page novel. A prequel Shift was published earlier this year and a sequel Dust is expected at the end of the year.wool

Set in what appears to post-apocalyptic (listeners to “wittertainment” will know that post-apocalyptic is an oxymoron, but it is an accepted term in popular culture so I am sticking with it) where people live in a giant silo berried deep in the ground. They are told that the outside world is uninhabitable as the land is ruined and the atmosphere is toxic. Most people take this as gospel, those that don’t believe keep their thoughts to themselves as it is a crime to question this and to express a wish to go outside and find out. Those that do are sent “cleaning”, sent through an airlock to clean the sensors that give the silo its only view of the outside world. Shortly after cleaning the exiles die, seemingly killed by the inhospitable outdoors, thus keeping people inside and satisfied for a little longer. The story starts with the silo sheriff, Holston volunteering for cleaning, for reasons that are explained in flashback. This leads the silo needing a new sheriff, the mayor, Jahns and a longstanding deputy sheriff, Marnes (who has refused promotion) travels to the depth of the silo to recruit their favoured candidate, Juliette. But the honesty and tenacity that got Juliette the job don’t fit well in a world of secrets.Ridley Scott Steve Zaillian

The most important thing about a story set in a dystopian future is that it creates a believable world for its characters to exist in. This is something that Howey does with ease, the silo is explained in perfect detail without getting in the way of the narrative and without huge paragraphs of dull exposition needed. And like all the best movie or literary incarnations of dystopia, everything seems okay on the surface. This isn’t a dystopia where the survivors are battling for survival against the un-dead or a terrible disease, they are just looking for information for the truth. This concept that drives the plot isn’t new, think Soylent Green (1973), Logan’s Run (1976) or even George Orwell’s novel 1984 where beyond the plot the characters motivation is to find the truth. Sometimes for the good of society, sometimes to their own determent, often for both.Andrea Riseborough and Jessica Chastain

The characters are well drawn and believable as are their motivations. Like Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games (2012), the casting is vital to the success of a movie adaptation. Here are a few suggestions: Andrea Riseborough or Jessica Chastain as Juliette – Tom Hanks as Solo – Brian Cox as Bernard – Helen Mirren or Judi Dench as Jahns. Not sure on Holston or Marnes. Lukas is probably the weakest written character so again unsure on the casting, possibly the most famous age appropriate actor at the time, Ryan Gosling? I look forward to seeing how it translates to the screen, given production times, it will probably be two years before we find out.

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We are a few hours away from the BAFTA awards, in advance of that here are a few thoughts on who I think will and should win:
Best Filmbafta awards
Zero Dark Thirty is the best film and should win, I would also be happy to see Argo win but actually think it will go to: Les MisérablesZero Dark Thirty
Alexander Korda Award for Outstanding British Film of the Year
Skyfall is by far the best film in the category and is unlucky not to be in the best film category. It stands a good chance of winning but if Les Misérables doesn’t get best film, it will be in with a chance too.skyfall
Best Actor
Hugh Jackman and Ben Affleck were both great and in any other year would be worthy winners, but there is really only one contender this year: Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln (2012)Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln
Best Actress
A really strong category, I think it will go to Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty.Zero Dark Thirty Best Supporting Actor
I would be happy to see any of the nominees win this one, but think Tommy Lee Jones edges it for Lincoln.Tommy Lee Jones Lincoln
Best Supporting Actress
The shoe in for the equivalent Oscar is Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables, she stands a good chance here too, the only competitor could be Judi Dench for Skyfall.Judi Dench Skyfall
David Lean Award for Achievement in Direction
I would chose Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty with Ben Affleck for Argo as a close second. However, I have a feeling Michael Haneke for Amour may sneak it.Michael Haneke Amour
Best Screenplay (Original)
Only one choice here, Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola for the magical Moonrise KingdomMoonrise Kingdom
Best Screenplay (Adapted)
Another strong category, I would go for David Magee for Life of Pi and think it should win, as much for the complexity of adapting the screenplay as for the final result.Life Of Pi
Best Cinematography
It easy to forget that cinematography is about hw well shot and lit and film is not how pretty the finished result is. With this in mind it has to be a straight fight between Janusz Kaminski for Lincoln and Roger Deakins for Skyfall. My vote goes to Deakins.Roger Deakins Skyfall
Best Editing
To clarify for the people who nominated Django Unchained, this catergry is for the best editing, not the movie most in need of editing. Again I think it’s a straight fight between Skyfall (Stuart Baird) and Zero Dark Thirty (Dylan Tichenor, Billy Goldenberg). I would lean towards Zero Dark Thirty.zero dark thirty
Best Production Design
I would like to see Dennis Gassner and Anna Pinnock for Skyfall as they avoided all the usual lazy clichéd pitfalls usually associated with the franchise. However the design of Anna Karenina (Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer) is both clever and stunning so will probably win.annakarenina-sets-various
Best Costume Design
All the nominees tick all the relevant boxes Jacqueline Durran for Anna Karenina looks like a good bet.annakarenina_poster-header Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music
None of the nominated scores was that memorable for me.
Best Make Up/Hair
Forgoing the flash and flair of the other nominated movies, Lincoln had a believable look of the era.Lincoln
Best Sound
Skyfall had the most amazing sound design , especially noticeable when seen in Imax but Les Misérables will most likely win for the original way in which the songs were recorded.Les Misérables
Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects
All the nominated movies could put up a strong argument for this award, but Life of Pi edges it.life-of-pi
Best Film not in the English Language
I liked Untouchable and Headhunters but thought Rust and Bone was considerably better than both. However, I havent seen Amour (the favourite) or The Hunt so can’t accurately predict this one.Marion Cotillard  Rust and Bone
Best Animated Feature Film
I have seen two of the nominated movies. Frankenweenie was better than Brave.It's a dog's death … Frankenweenie
Best Documentary
I have only seen two of the three nominated movies so will go with the favourite: The ImposterThe Imposter
EE Rising Star Award
Her Killer Joe performance is enough for me to give it to Juno Temple but wouldn’t mind seeing Andrea Riseborough or Elizabeth Olsen win as they are both brilliant in everything they do. I would like to see more of Suraj Sharma and Alicia Vikander before deciding on their future stardomJuno Temple Killer Joe
Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer
I would love to see Dexter Fletcher, Danny King win for the excellent but under seen Wild Bill. Dexter Fletcher

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A few thoughts on the nominations. Firstly I am always a little disappointed when films are nominated before they have been released in the UK (Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained). I am surprised and disappointed that Sam Mendes/Skyfall isn’t nominated in the best film/best director categories. I didn’t expect it to get anything at the Oscars but held out hope the British Academy would recognise it. Fantastic to Marion Cotillard’s monumental performance in Rust and Bone nominated despite not being in an English language movie. Also pleased to see actor turned director Dexter Fletcher (director/writer) nominated for the debut British writer/director/producer category. A strong year for documentaries and foreign language movies. The rising star award has a heavy female bias with woman in four of the five places. Its also a strong category presenting a problem. It is awarded via a public vote, at least three of the five might get my vote.

Here is a Full list of nominees:

BEST FILM
Argo
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Zero Dark ThirtyZero Dark Thirty

OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM
Anna Karenina
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Les Miserables
Seven Psychopaths
Skyfallskyfall

LEADING ACTOR 
Ben Affleck – Argo
Bradley Cooper – Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln
Hugh Jackman – Les Miserables
Joaquin Phoenix – The MasterJoaquin Phoenix  The Master

LEADING ACTRESS 
Jessica Chastain – Zero Dark Thirty
Marion Cotillard – Rust and Bone
Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook
Dame Helen Mirren – Hitchcock
Emmanuelle Riva – AmourMarion Cotillard  Rust and Bone

SUPPORTING ACTOR 
Alan Arkin – Argo
Javier Bardem – Skyfall
Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Master
Tommy Lee Jones – Lincoln
Christoph Waltz – Django UnchainedAlan Arkin Argo

SUPPORTING ACTRESS 
Amy Adams – The Master
Dame Judi Dench – Skyfall
Sally Field – Lincoln
Anne Hathaway – Les Miserables
Helen Hunt – The SessionsAnne Hathaway Les Miserables

DIRECTOR 
Ben Affleck – Argo
Kathryn Bigelow – Zero Dark Thirty
Michael Haneke – Amour
Ang Lee – Life of Pi
Quentin Tarantino – Django Unchained

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Amour – Michael Haneke
Django Unchained – Quentin Tarantino
The Master – Paul Thomas Anderson
Moonrise Kingdom – Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola
Zero Dark Thirty – Mark Boal

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY 
Argo – Chris Terrio
Beasts of the Southern Wild – Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin
Life of Pi – David Magee
Lincoln – Tony Kushner
Silver Linings Playbook – David O Russell

OUTSTANDING DEBUT BY A BRITISH WRITER, DIRECTOR OR PRODUCER
James Bobin (director) – The Muppets
Dexter Fletcher (director/writer) and Danny King (writer) – Wild Bill
Tina Gharavi (director/writer) – I Am Nasrine
Bart Layton (director) and Dmitri Doganis (producer) – The Imposter
David Morris (director) and Jaqui Morris (director/producer) – McCullin

ANIMATED FILM
Brave
Frankenweenie
Paranorman
DOCUMENTARY
The Imposter
Marley
McCullin
Searching for Sugarman
West of Memphis

FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
Amour
Headhunters
The Hunt
Rust and Bone
Untouchable

CINEMATOGRAPHY
Anna Karenina
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Skyfall

COSTUME DESIGN 
Anna Karenina
Great Expectations
Les Miserables
Lincoln
Snow White and the Huntsman

EDITING
Argo
Django Unchained
Life of Pi
Skyfall
Zero Dark Thirty

MAKE UP AND HAIR
Anna Karenina
Hitchcock
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Les Miserables
Lincoln

ORIGINAL MUSIC
Anna Karenina
Argo
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Skyfall

PRODUCTION DESIGN
Anna Karenina
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Skyfall

SOUND
Django Unchained
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Skyfall

SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS
The Dark Knight Rises
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Life of Pi
Marvel Avengers Assemble
Prometheus

SHORT ANIMATION
Here to Fall
I’m Fine Thanks
The Making of Longbird

SHORT FILM
The Curse
Good Night
Swimmer
Tumult
The Voorman Problem

RISING STAR (public vote)
Elizabeth Olsen
Andrea Riseborough
Suraj Sharma
Juno Temple
Alicia VikanderRISING STAR

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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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With just a couple of days to go until BAFTA Awards here are my thoughts on who I think will win and who I would choose.

  • Best Film
  • Who I think will win: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • My Choice: The Artist
  • Other nominees: The Descendants, Drive, The Help
  • Alexander Korda Award for Outstanding British Film of the Year
  • Who I think will win: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • My Choice: We Need to Talk About Kevin
  • Other nominees: My Week with Marilyn, Senna, Shame
  • Best Actor
  • Who I think will win: Gary Oldman for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • My Choice: George Clooney for The Descendants
  • Other nominees: Jean Dujardin for The Artist, Michael Fassbender for Shame, Brad Pitt for Moneyball
  • Best Actress
  • Who I think will win: Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady (2011)
  • My Choice: Tilda Swinton for We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)
  • Other nominees: Bérénice Bejo for The Artist, Viola Davis for The Help, Michelle Williams for My Week with Marilyn
  • Best Supporting Actor
  • Who I think will win: Kenneth Branagh for My Week with Marilyn
  • My Choice: Christopher Plummer for Beginners
  • Other nominees: Jim Broadbent for The Iron Lady, Jonah Hill for Moneyball, Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Ides of March
  • Best Supporting Actress
  • Who I think will win: Octavia Spencer for The Help
  • My Choice: Jessica Chastain for The Help
  • Other nominees: Judi Dench for My Week with Marilyn, Melissa McCarthy for Bridesmaids, Carey Mulligan for Drive
  • David Lean Award for Achievement in Direction
  • Who I think will win: Tomas Alfredson for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • My Choice:Lynne Ramsay for We Need to Talk
  • Other nominees: Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist, About Kevin, Nicolas Winding Refn for Drive, Martin Scorsese for Hugo
  • Best Screenplay (Original)
  • Who I think will win: The Artist (2011): Michel Hazanavicius
  • My Choice: The Guard: John Michael McDonagh
  • Other nominees: Bridesmaids: Annie Mumolo, Kristen Wiig, The Iron Lady: Abi Morgan, Midnight in Paris: Woody Allen
  • Best Screenplay (Adapted)
  • Who I think will win: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughan
  • My Choice: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughan
  • Other nominees: The Descendants: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash – The Help: Tate Taylor – The Ides of March: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon – Moneyball: Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin
  • Best Cinematography
  • Who I think will win: War Horse: Janusz Kaminski
  • My Choice: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Jeff Cronenweth
  • Other nominees: The Artist: Guillaume Schiffman – Hugo: Robert Richardson – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Hoyte Van Hoytema
  • Best Editing
  • Who I think will win: Senna: Gregers Sall, Chris King
  • My Choice: Senna: Gregers Sall, Chris King
  • Other nominees: The Artist: Anne-Sophie Bion, Michel Hazanavicius – Drive: Matthew Newman – Hugo: Thelma Schoonmaker – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Dino Jonsäter
  • Best Production Design
  • Who I think will win: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Maria Djurkovic, Tatiana Macdonald
  • My Choice: The Artist: Laurence Bennett, Robert Gould
  • Other nominees: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2: Stuart Craig, Stephenie McMillan – Hugo: Dante Ferretti, Francesca Lo Schiavo – War Horse: Rick Carter, Lee Sandales
  • Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music
  • Who I think will win: The Artist: Ludovic Bource
  • My Choice: The Artist: Ludovic Bource
  • Other nominees: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross – Hugo: Howard Shore – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Alberto Iglesias – War Horse: John Williams
  • Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer
  • Who I think will win: Tyrannosaur: Paddy Considine, Diarmid Scrimshaw
  • My Choice: Tyrannosaur: Paddy Considine, Diarmid Scrimshaw
  • Other nominees: Attack the Block: Joe Cornish – Black Pond: Will Sharpe, Tom Kingsley, Sarah Brocklehurst – Coriolanus: Ralph Fiennes – Submarine: Richard Ayoade

A note on my selection. I have seen all the nominations mentioned above. The categories I haven’t mentioned are either because I haven’t seen the enough of the nominated movies or else I’m not that bother red about who wins. A could of categories I would like to mention are Best Film not in the English Language and Best Documentary, I have only seen one movie in each (The Skin I Live In and Senna) but as they both made it to my top ten movies list of last year, I would love to see them win.

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