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Eight films seen this month, there are a few more out I would like to catch up with if I find the time.  Although I enjoyed all the films this month, the movie of the month shone out by a mile, I think you may spot it when you read my comments:

Suicide Squad – On the plus side, Margot Robbie, Will Smith and Viola Davis are all excellent and perfectly cast.  On the negative side; DC has all the best villains, if you are going to turn them into heroes you are left with a rubbish villain.  When you add to this a disjointed story you are left with a decent film that should have been a great film. You can’t help thinking how much better Marvel would have handled it.Sucide Squad

Nerve – Emma Roberts is 25, it’s about time she stopped playing 17 year olds and developed a career.  The film is largely disposable fun, best not to think too much about the plot and it massive holes.Nerve

The Shallows – Entertaining but silly woman against shark movie elevated by a strong, largely solo performance from Blake Lively.  Shot with a lustful gave on its female lead that falls somewhere between shampoo commercial and the pornographic gaze of Michael Bay.  You could argue that it is gratuitous, or that it is the point of the movie, who am I to say.The Shallows

Julieta – Pedro Almodóvar returns to the family drama focusing on female characters.  While I love The Skin I Live In, this is what Almodóvar does best, and possibly better than any other Auteur. A treat for fans of Almodóvar or just fans of cinema.Julieta

Lights Out – Effective horror with a great concept, a perfect, short run time and some great performances particularly from Maria Bello.Lights Out

Swallows and Amazons – Enjoyable version of Arthur Ransome’s classic children’s book.  The introduction of the spy story subplot works surprisingly well.  The unknown child cast are good, Kelly Macdonald, Rafe Spall and Andrew Scott are all good in the adult roles.  Purists will bemoan both the lack of sailing and how poorly the sailing scenes are filmed.Swallows and Amazons

The Purge: Election Year – A direct sequel to the second Purge film ” Anarchy ” with Frank Grillo reprising his role.  The only criticism is that where the second film moved things on, this third film offers nothing new.

The Mechanic: Resurrection – Unnecessary sequel to an unnecessary remake.  There is some good action, Jason Statham is fun as you would expect.  Jessica Alba, Tommy Lee Jones and Michelle Yeoh  are all wasted.  The makeup department should have given Sam Hazeldine an moustache to twirl.The Mechanic Resurrection

An easy choice, movie of the month is:Julieta poster

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3 Days To Kill opened a couple of weeks ago to universal derision, it surprisingly isn’t that bad. With a script by Luc Besson and a plot featuring an aging CIA hit-man, comparisons with Taken are unavoidable. Kevin Costner does a good job with a flimsy and derivative story that loses its way in the middle. The action scenes and the family bonding both work on their own merits but the film fails to join the two elements together into a coherent movie. Not as nasty as Taken but also not as focused, it is worth seeing for any fans of either Costner or Besson, but we should expect so much more from Luc Besson.3 Days to Kill

Both as a director and writer/producer Besson has been responsible for some great films. Subway (1985) was the beginning of the style over substance tag (known as Cinéma du look movement ) that has followed Besson for his entire career, but with this much style how much substance do you need? Five years later came the film that introduced me to non English language cinema: Nikita (1990), I rented the VHS when I was 15 years old (I know it is an 18 and I was 15, but the video shop man didn’t notice or care!) about a year after its cinema release, I was drawn to the movie mainly because I liked the cover. Often criticised for lack of originality, Nikita has surely influenced more movies than it was influenced by. Anne Parillaud’s reluctant government assassin has spawned a Hollywood remake, two TV shows and countless imitators. Léon(aka The Professional) (1994) is widely regarded as Besson’s best film thanks to the just over-the-top enough turn by Gary Oldman and the sensational feature debut of 12-year-old Natalie Portman. It is also notable as Besson’s first film in English. Again in English, this time with an even less restrained Gary Oldman, The Fifth Element (1997) saw a new direction for Besson, a big budget Sci-Fi adventure. it has its problems but on the whole is a fun with some interesting ideas. Better know as a writer and producer in recent years, he is still able suprise as a director as he did with the bizarre but brilliant Angel-A (2005) and The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (2010). Sadly less well know, possibly because they are in French, I would recommend both movies to anyone who hasn’t seen them.nikita

Probably the best know of his writer/producer movies is The Transporter (200, 2005, 2008), starring Jason Statham, they are exactly what you expect from Besson and Statham, slick, glossy, well made, dumb action. Also falling into that category but with more comedy is Taxi (1998) and its three sequels (2000, 2003, 2007). Also notable for early appearances from Marion Cotillard nearly a decade before La Vie en rose. I wouldn’t bother with parts 3 and four or the American remake (2004) but the first two films are great. There were three films released in the UK in 2006 to feature parkour: Breaking and Entering (2006), Casino Royale (2006) and District 13 (2004) (original title Banlieue 13, also known as District B 13). Only District 13 stars parkour founder David Belle. Belle and writer/producer returned for a sequel District 13: Ultimatum (2009) and Brick Mansions (2014), neither were as good as the exciting and innovative original film. Lockout (2012) is a B Sci-Fi starring Guy Pearce and go-to kidnap victim Maggie Grace. The story is derivative and the effects terrible, but the film itself is tremendous fun and really Enjoyable.Lockout

Working across multiple genres, Besson also wrote, produced and directed the Arthur and the Invisibles movies (2006, 2009, 2010), and the biopic of Aung San Suu Kyi, The Lady (2011). I haven’t seen any of these films so can’t comment on them other than to say they were not well received critically. Returning to the director’s chair for his next film Lucy, set for release in August (in UK). Starring Scarlett Johansson in the title role it looks from the trailer like a riff on the ideas of Limitless. A return to large budget Sci-Fi and yet another film to feature a strong female lead, I am looking forward to it.the lady

All this producing isn’t an act of randomly placing his name on movies to help distribute them, in 1999 he founded the Paris based EuropaCorp, one of the few independent studios that both produces and distributes movies. As well as the films Besson has creative infuemce over, he has also produced Nil by Mouth (1997), directed by Gary Oldman; The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, by Tommy Lee Jones (2005) (and Tommy Lee Jones’ upcoming The Homesman) and Tell No One (2006), by Guillaume Canet. Three fantastic films that may not have been made if not for Besson and EuropaCorp. While I respect what Besson is doing with EuropaCorp, I would just like to see a few more great films directed by him and a few less mediocre ones written and, or produced by him.

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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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