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The British Academy Film Awards will be awarded on Sunday.  Here are my predictions along with what I would like to see win in the major categories:

Best Film

  • My Choice: Boyhood
  • Prediction: Boyhood
  • Other nominations: The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Theory of Everything, Birdman, The Imitation Gameboyhood-poster

 

David Lean Award for Direction

  • My Choice: Richard Linklater for Boyhood
  • Prediction: Richard Linklater for Boyhood
  • Other nominations: Alejandro González Iñárritu for Birdman, Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel, Damien Chazelle for Whiplash, James Marsh for The Theory of Everything:richard linklater boyhood

 

Best Leading Actor

  • My choice:  Ralph Fiennes for The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Prediction:  Michael Keaton for Birdman
  • Other nominations: Benedict Cumberbatch for The Imitation Game, Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything, Jake Gyllenhaal for Nightcrawler.ralph fiennes the grand budapest hotel

 

Best Leading Actress

  • My Choice: Reese Witherspoon for Wild (I haven’t seen still Alice)
  • Prediction: Julianne Moore for Still Alice
  • Other nominations: Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl, Felicity Jones for The Theory of Everything, Amy Adams for Big Eyes.Wild

 

Best Supporting Actor

  • My Choice: J.K. Simmons for Whiplash
  • Prediction: J.K. Simmons for Whiplash
  • Other nominations: Mark Ruffalo for Foxcatcher, Ethan Hawke for Boyhood, Edward Norton for Birdman, Steve Carell for Foxcatcher.j k simmons whiplash

 

Best Supporting Actress

  • My Choice: Patricia Arquette for Boyhood
  • Prediction: Patricia Arquette for Boyhood
  • Other nominations: Keira Knightley for The Imitation Game, Emma Stone for Birdman, Imelda Staunton for Pride, Rene Russo for Nightcrawler.patricia arquette boyhood

 

Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer

  • My choice: Stephen Beresford & David Livingstone for Pride (I haven’t seen Kajaki but have heard great things about it)
  • Prediction: Stephen Beresford & David Livingstone for Pride
  • Other nominations: Elaine Constantine for Northern Soul, Yann Demange &Gregory Burke for ’71, Hong Khaou for Lilting, Paul Katis & Andrew de Lotbiniere for Kajaki.Pride

 

Best Original Screenplay

  • My Choice: Richard Linklater for Boyhood
  • Prediction: Richard Linklater for Boyhood
  • Other nominations: Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel, Damien Chazelle for Whiplash, Dan Gilroy for Nightcrawler, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo for Birdman.richard linklater boyhood

 

Best Screenplay (Adapted)

  • My Choice: Gillian Flynn for Gone Girl
  • Prediction:  Graham Moore for The Imitation Game
  • Other nominations: Jason Hall for American Sniper, Graham Moore for The Imitation Game, Anthony McCarten for The Theory of Everything, Paul King for PaddingtonGillian Flynn

 

Best Cinematography

  • My Choice: Emmanuel Lubezki for Birdman
  • Prediction: Dick Pope for Mr. Turner
  • Other nominations: Hoyte Van Hoytema for Interstellar, Robert D. Yeoman for The Grand Budapest Hotel, Ryszard Lenczewski for Ida: Lukasz Zal,emmanuel lubezki birdman

 

Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film

  • My Choice: Pride or Under the Skin
  • Prediction: Paddington
  • Other nominations: ’71, The Imitation Game, The Theory of EverythingUnder The Skin

 

EE Rising Star Award

  • My Choice: Jack O’Connell
  • Prediction: Shailene Woodley
  • Other nominations: Miles Teller, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Margot RobbieJack OConnell

 

Best Film Not in the English Language

  • Unfortunately, being the only one shown at my local cinema Trash is the only film I have seen so have no opinion on this category.  The nominations are: Ida, The Lunchbox, Two Days, One Night, Leviathan, Trash.Trash

 

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Thor and The Hulk are difficult characters within the Marvel universe. They are big brash characters that should be cinematic, and in some ways they are, but in others they are just a little dull and limited. The great success of Iron Man (2008) and Iron Man 3 (2013) is that we see more of Tony Stark than of Iron Man. The biggest failure of Iron Man 2 (2010) is its reliance on Iron Man and not Tony Stark. And that is possibly why The Hulk has never really worked in his own movie, the various filmmakers have never found a balance between Banner and The Hulk.Thor and The Hulk

When the first Thor film came out two years ago I wasn’t really interested. I have never read any Thor comic books and knew nothing of the character. I was also sceptical of how a fantasy character would fit into the Marvel universe as seen in Iron Man. I went to see it out of curiosity and to see what Kenneth Branagh was doing with a film so far from what you would expect for him. The result was a total surprise. It fulfilled every expectation for an action adventure movie, but I never expected it to be so funny and such good fun. Tom Hiddleston who I had never heard of at the time was brilliant. Natalie Portman is sensational in everything she does. Stellan Skarsgård was surprisingly funny. Kat Dennings isn’t the best actress in the world but she is always adorable and her character is always hilarious. All the same is true of Thor: The Dark World, it also gives Idris Elba and Rene Russo a little more to do. All things considered it isn’t as good as the first movie, but it is still great fun and ticks all the boxes you expect it to tick.Thor The Dark World

The Hulk had the most memorable moment of The Avengers but until that point he had never really made his mark in movies. Despite its reputation, the Ang Lee movie from 2003 wasn’t bad. Eric Bana wasn’t a bad Bruce Banner. But it was just that, not bad, no better. The next movie, The Incredible Hulk (2008) was better and Edward Norton was actually really good. But the character never truly worked until The Avengers (2012). Mark Ruffalo is the perfect Bruce Banner, his banter with Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark was brilliant, but more importantly the plot actually found a way to use The Hulk including the movies aforementioned best moment with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki.The Hulk

The success of The Hulk in The Avengers is partly down to the time constraints of an ensemble movie, but Thor has hade it work Twice. As mentioned at the top, there is no getting away from the fact Thor is a limited character. In the first movie he was a fish out of water, in the avengers he was one of a collective, in the second Thor movie a lot of the plot is developed without Thor (Chris Hemsworth). This is a brave move, but one that pays of thanks to such a strong supporting cast. This is what The Hulk needs, if he is going to have his own movie again. That, however looks unlikely at the moment. While I am sure Marvel haven’t given up on the big green fella he doesn’t appear to be in Marvels plans at the moment beyond The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). Other forthcoming Marvels movies are: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Ant-Man (2015) and possibly a Nick Fury movie after that. While I wouldn’t mind seing another Hulk movie I would be more interested in seeing move of Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Clint Barton / Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).MARVEL'S THE AVENGERS

Ultimately they are two characters that have a lot to offer but with limited cinematic appeal, one has been perfectly handled and scripted to overcome the limitations, the other that is yet to live up to its potential. As the first phase of The Avengers got under way, I don’t think anyone expected the immediate future of the franchise to be dominated by Iron Man/Tony Stark, but that is what happened. This is all down to great scripts and the charisma of Robert Downey Jr. In Mark Ruffalo, they have the perfect actor, if they are going to give the hulk another go they just need to find a great script.

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now you see me movie posterOn Monday evening I attended a preview screening of a mystery movie at the Birmingham branch of a large cinema chain. This wasn’t an opening this weekend cynical attempt to distort the box-office, but a genuine preview of a movie that doesn’t open until for another two and half weeks. I have done this in the past when I have been invited to a preview screening and have seen some great films that I knew little or nothing about including Intacto (2001), The Pianist (2002) and The History Boys (2006). I have also seen some terrible movies that I wish I hadn’t seen including Party Monster (2003) and Dreamgirls (2006). This was different, it wasn’t an invitation only event, it was a well publicised packed house. While waiting for the for the movie to start I got talking to the person next to me, it turned out he actually worked for the cinema and even he didn’t know what the movie would be. He found out about five minutes before the res of us but was sworn to secrecy. When the movie was revelled I did wonder if the man wearing the “Games Games Games” T shirt and the man in the Facebook T’shirt already knew or if it was a coincidence. I took my usual place in the centre of the first row of stadium seating and noticed the front rows were filling quicker than the back rows as you would expect for a big movie. A true sign of a movie geek/loving audience! The other noticeable thing about audience was how well the followed “the code of conduct” there was no talking during the movie and little, noise/smell of food distracting from the enjoyment of the movie. I did wonder when booking by tickets how many people would turn up to see an unknown movie at 8:15 on a Monday evening, especially given the fact the weather outside had begun to resemble the summer that we are allegedly nearing the middle of. The aforementioned near full house, in one of the cinemas largest screens answered my question. So the experience was a good one but was the movie?

In a word yes. Don’t get me wrong, Now You See Me  isn’t a masterpiece that will live long in the memory, but it was a fun crowd-pleasing movie that was perfect for the occasion:

Four stage magicians/illusionists calling themselves The Four Horsemen appear to rob a bank in Paris without leaving the stage during a live performance is Las Vegas. An FBI agent and an Interpol detective team up to track them down with the help of a man who has made his name and fortune revealing and debunking magic tricks.Now You See Me The Four Horsemen

It comes as no surprise that director Louis Leterrier made his name with action movies (The Transporter 1&2, Unleashed, The Incredible Hulk and Clash of the Titans). The movie only has a couple of ig set piece action scenes, but they are particularly well handled. The movie also plays out at a breakneck pace with its near tow hour running time flying buy. This has two effects, it keeps the audience interested but it also stops them thinking too much about the holes and implausibilities in the plot.now you see me Mark Ruffalo Mélanie Laurent

The cast is great with Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson having a lot of fun with the characters as does Mark Ruffalo. Mélanie Laurent is wasted but does what she can with in part that promises much but actually doesn’t do much. It’s a similar story with Isla Fisher and Dave (brother of James) Franco who only really have one good scene each away fro the stage shows. The supporting cast includes Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine who are perfect for there small but significant roles. The greatest issue with the movie is the fantastic cast; it helps highlight who thin and underwritten the characters are. The charisma and likeability of the actors prevents it form being a disaster. In lesser hands the audience would not buy into the movie of feel anything for the characters, however better characters could have resulted in a more memorable movie like The Sting (1973) or Oceans Eleven (2001 not 1960).Now You See Me Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine

As mentioned the plot is thin and implausible, but again it gets away with partly because of the cast, partly the pace but mainly because it packs so much into two hour. There are plenty of twists, turns and reveals, some you will see coming, others you probably won’t. This in itself is a clever metaphor for illusions and stage magic. The characters keep reminding us of distractions and illusions, so the overriding plot of the movie is a whodunit, that keeps reminding us that it is a whodunit.

How much you like the movie may depend of how much you saw coming, too much and it would be dull, too little and you just weren’t watching it, but ultimately it’s the performances particularly from Eisenberg and Harrelson that will win you over. I don’t give star rating any longer, if I did it would probably be a solid 3 out of 5. It isn’t the best movie I have seen this week, but it is one enjoyed and I will have no problem in recommending it to friends when it opens next month. And that can be the only reason for the preview screening. There were no questionnaires to be used for publicity purposes. The only reason I can see for the cinema previewing the movie is for word of mouth and to give something back to their most loyal customers, keeping them happy loyal.

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Dom 5Back for a second year of Groovers Movie awards. As with last year, 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 is a virtual for a second year as Moët haven’t approached offered to sponsor the award.

Best Movie:
Skyfallskyfall
Best Director:
Ben Affleck for Argoben affleck directing argo
Best Actress:
Marion Cotillard for Rust and BoneMarion Cotillard  Rust and Bone
Best Actor:
Matthew McConaughey for Killer JoeKiller Joe
Best Screenplay:
Moonrise KingdomMoonrise Kingdom
Best Foreign Language Film:
Rust and Bonerust-and-bone-poster
Best Documentary:
Marley – The Imposter got all the plaudits but I found Marley more interesting and enjoyable.Marley
Best Looking Movie:
Life of Pi; An amalgam of many awards including Cinematography, Production Design and Art Direction. Life of Pi wins the award for being the most beautiful looking movie of the year.life-of-pi
Best Ensemble Cast:
The Avengers: last years Movie Stars of the year given to movie stars who had impressed in a variety of movie has been replaced by Best Ensemble Cast, this goes to: Robert Downey Jr. Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow and Paul Bettany who all played a part in making The Avengers great.Marvel Avengers Assemble
Fandango Award:
Fandango was writer/director Kevin Reynolds debut (and best) feature, and the first notable movie for star Kevin Costner. That is why the Fandango Award goes to someone in a début or breakthrough feature: Gina Carano in Steven Soderbergh’s B movie masterpiece Haywire.haywire-gina-caranoDom 5

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Already the most talked about movie of the year so far, the one thing we don’t need is another review of The Avengers. Therefore I am going to try and avoid reviewing the movie other than to say I have seen it, and I loved it. So what follows are just a ramblings and thoughts on the franchise and where it is going. To begin with, lets get one thing straight, the new UK title Marvel Avengers Assemble is a bit of a mouthful and is frankly crap so from this moment on I will refer to the movie as The Avengers.

Making a movie of The Avengers must have seemed like a good idea, but how do you bring together a disparate group of characters in a coherent story? By starting with a series of movies involving the individual characters gives a strong base and also solves the problem of protracted introductions of multiple characters. The problem, it builds expectations of the fans and risks alienating the uninitiated. The greatest challenge is probably containing Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark / Iron Man who could run away with the whole movie, but there is even more to it than that. How do you use Bruce Banner and The Hulk within the team? To add to this problem Mark Ruffalo is the third Bruce Banner in less than a decade, do you introduce him again or go with an assumed back story? Then you have Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Clint Barton / Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) who have made fleeting appearances but have not had their own movies, they also seem to lack any supper abilities. Slotting the two fish out of water character, Steve Rogers / Captain America (Chris Evans) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) into the mix also has its challenges. If you can solve all these problems you then need a suitable villain. The X-Men movies accomplish this by using multiple villains to pair off against the heroes, this works for them but The Avengers are a very different group to The X-Men. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) was a great choice, having already been introduced in Thor we already know his back story. He is also an interesting villain with a typically comic book agenda.

Where do you start a project like this? The director. It would have been easy to pick one of the successful directors of the earlier films: Jon Favreau (Iron Man), Joe Johnston (Captain America: The First Avenger), Kenneth Branagh (Thor), but the avengers needs to be its own movie not an Iron Man or Thor sequel. My interest certainly increased when Joss Whedon’s name was attached to the project. To put it simply, Whedon just gets it. Treating the group as a dysfunctional family whose personalities get in the way whenever they are put in a room together. This clash is what makes the movie funny, but it is also the basis that makes the team work as just that, a team. The key to the success is the relationships, as a group of individuals they are defined by the way they interact. Tony Stark and Steve Rogers are like bickering siblings, but Iron Man and Captain America are a proficient team. The biggest beneficiary of the Whedon effect is Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow who is promoted from little more than eye candy in Iron Man 2. She is funny and sexy and is a surprisingly deep character. There has to be some mileage in giving Black Widow an origin movie of her own or possible one shared with Hawkeye. Given his background of ass kicking female characters (Buffy/River/Echo), Joss Whedon would be the perfect director to take it on.

One of the first things I noticed about the film was the unusually narrow aspect ratio (1.85:1), the fact that I completely forgot this within a few minutes suggests it wasn’t important and the chosen format worked. I have read that Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey chose the ratio to help frame the unusually tall characters like The Hulk along side normal and short characters. It has also been mentioned that Joss Whedon favoured this ratio of the more normal wider ratios with his climatic Manhattan, sequence in mind.

Given the least back-story I wondered where Clint Barton / Hawkeye would fit in to the story. He is actually really important to the plot and along with Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow give the team and the movie a grounding. It all helps in the meteoric rise of Jeremy Renner, I had little idea who he was a few years ago, I vaguely remember him in 28 Weeks Later and S.W.A.T. and have no recollection of him in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. His breakthrough performance came in The Hurt Locker where he received a much deserved Oscar nomination. Clearly Hollywood was just as impressed as I was, he has found his way into three big franchises. As well as Hawkeye in The Avengers he also landed a part in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol that is rumoured as a future replacement for Tom Cruise as the main star of the franchise. Later this year he will appear in The Bourne Legacy, possibly the first part of a new trilogy.

With a positive response from critics and a strong box-office this will not be the only time we see the Avengers assemble, but here dose the franchise go from here? Avengers 2, Iron Man 3, Captain America 2, Thor 2, The Hulk 3 (or rebooted)? Probably all of the above. As mentioned above I would also like to see a Black Widow and/or a Hawkeye prequel/origin. There is also space for a Nick Fury stand alone movie. Not to mention all the other Marvel Characters who could appear. The most obvious would be Spider-Man, this probably isn’t possible at them moment as Sony currently own the rights (along with Ghost Rider). A similar problem exists with Fox who hold: The X-Men, Daredevil and The Fantastic Four. This isn’t a bad thing as I am happy to see the Avengers and X-Men universes kept apart.

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