BAFTA Reaction

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I’ve always held the BAFTA’s in high esteem. Being British, it is the only award ceremony I can stay up for and still function at work again the next day, so it is always interesting which films are leading the pack. Also, a precursor to the Oscar’s it gives an interesting insight into the industry mind-set throughout the awards season. He is my very brief review of this morning’s nominations.

I’m in equal measure delighted and surprised that The Grand Budapest Hotel is leading the pack with eleven nominations in total. Especially, because this is a film released almost a year ago and it has still kept itself within the minds of its admirers long before awards season. It is up for Best Film, Best leading actor for Ralph Fiennes and Best Director for Wes Anderson among others. Whether it will win many or any of the awards is the question but it’s still encouraging to see this wonderfully acted and scripted film at the top of the pile.

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The rest of the Best Film nominations are made up by Boyhood, Birdman, The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything. People will be asking questions regarding the absence of Foxcatcher, Whiplash and Selma but it is a very strong line up still and really tough to determine the winner. Maybe, when the awards season buzz starts to get into full flow we shall start getting an inkling as to who the statues will be going to. Personally, I would really like it to go to Birdman, a film that takes risks and has a great deal of innovation. However, being a British ceremony there is a distinct possibility that they will favour one of their own productions so potentially Theory of Everything or Imitation Game could walk away with the prize. But, like I said, too close to call at the current moment.

Personally, I would have liked to see a few more nominations for Interstellar. Although the technical side of this amazing movie has been applauded, I feel there could be more in the way of script, acting and directing nominations for the cast and crew, especially because it is one of the smartest, emotionally strong and well written science fiction films in recent memory.  There also doesn’t seem to be a place for Mr Turner within Best Film or outstanding British Film which is somewhat of a shock.

On the acting side of things there is an absolute fine selection of talent in the Best Actor category. Again, it’s interesting to note the omission of David Oyelowo for his performance as Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma which was tipped to garner this prize at the Oscars. However, the performances on show here were remarkable. I’d be very happy for any of Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Keaton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Eddie Redmayne or Ralph Fiennes to win the BAFTA, however if I was pushed it would be Michael Keaton. In terms of best actress it is between Amy Adams, Felicity Jones, Julianne Moore, Reese Witherspoon and Rosamund Pike. Again, close to call but the way her performance in Wild has been talked about it very well could go to Witherspoon.

Jack O'Connell in '71

The EE Rising Star, which is always an interesting category that shines a spotlight on the upcoming acting talent in the industry, has nominated Jack O’Connell, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Margot Robbie, Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley. There is the question with this category if these are rising stars or they have already risen. Especially a few years ago when Tom Hardy won the award after being in Inception and having already been cast as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. However, it’s great to celebrate new talent of after ’71, Unbroken and Starred Up, this award can only really go to Jack O’Connell, his development over the last few years has been exceptional and it really seems he’s made it to the big leagues now.

With the Oscar nominations still to come on 15th January it will be interesting to see if they sync up in any way with these BAFTAs. It would be a massive surprise if The Grand Budapest acquired that many nominations at the Academy Awards and there will probably be further recognition for Whiplash, Foxcatcher and Selma.

So, let us all brace ourselves for February 8th and the BAFTA awards to see what will come out on top. Presented again by the always wonderful Stephen Fry these awards are always a treat and with most of the nominations being too close to call this year it’s going to be interesting to see which way the awards go. This has just been a brief reaction and I will be back later in the month to comment more extensively on the Oscar Nominations.

BAFTA Nominations in Full:

Best Film

Birdman
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory Of Everything

Outstanding British Film

’71
The Imitation Game
Paddington
Pride
The Theory Of Everything
Under The Skin

 

Best Director

Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
James Marsh, The Theory Of Everything
Damien Chazelle, Whiplash

Best Leading Actor

Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game
Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything
Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler
Michael Keaton – Birdman
Ralph Fiennes – The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Leading Actress

Amy Adams – Big Eyes
Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore – Still Alice
Reese Witherspoon – Wild
Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl

Best Supporting Actor

Edward Norton – Birdman
Ethan Hawke – Boyhood
J.K. Simmons – Whiplash
Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher
Steve Carell – Foxcatcher

Best Supporting Actress

Emma Stone – Birdman
Imelda Staunton – Pride
Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game
Patricia Arquette – Boyhood
Rene Russo – Nightcrawler

Best Original Screenplay

Birdman – Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr, Armando Bo
Boyhood – Richard Linklater
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson
Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy
Whiplash – Damien Chazelle

Best Adapted Screenplay

American Sniper – Jason Hall
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
The Imitation Game – Graham Moore
Paddington – Paul King
The Theory Of Everything – Anthony McCarten

Best Original Music

Birdman – Antonio Sanchez
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Alexandre Desplat
Interstellar – Hans Zimmer
The Theory Of Everything – Jóhann Jóhannsson
Under The Skin – Mica Levi

Best Cinematography

Birdman – Emmanuel Lubezki
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Robert Yeoman
Ida – Lukasz Zal, Ryszard Lenczewski
Interstellar – Hoyte van Hoytema
Mr. Turner – Dick Pope

Best Editing

Birdman – Douglas Crise, Stephen Mirrione
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Barney Pilling
The Imitation Game – William Goldenberg
Nightcrawler – John Gilroy
The Theory Of Everything – Jinx Godfrey
Whiplash – Tom Cross

Best Production Design

Big Eyes – Rick Heinrichs, Shane Vieau
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Adam Stockhausen, Anna Pinnock
The Imitation Game – Maria Djurkovic, Tatiana MacDonald
Interstellar – Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis
Mr. Turner – Suzie Davies, Charlotte Watts

Best Costume Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Milena Canonero
The Imitation Game – Sammy Sheldon Differ
Into The Woods – Colleen Atwood
Mr. Turner – Jacqueline Durran
The Theory Of Everything – Steven Noble

Best Sound

American Sniper – Walt Martin, John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, Alan Robert Murray, Bub Asman
Birdman – Thomas Varga, Martin Hernández, Aaron Glascock, Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wayne Lemmer, Christopher Scarabosio, Pawel Wdowczak
The Imitation Game – John Midgley, Lee Walpole, Stuart Hilliker, Martin Jensen
Whiplash – Thomas Curley, Ben Wilkins, Craig Mann

Best Make-Up And Hair

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Frances Hannon
Guardians Of The Galaxy – Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou, David White
Into The Woods – Peter Swords King, J. Roy Helland
Mr. Turner – Christine Blundell, Lesa Warrener
The Theory Of Everything –  Jan Sewell

Best Special Visual Effects

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes – Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Erik Winquist, Daniel Barrett
Guardians Of The Galaxy – Stephane Ceretti, Paul Corbould, Jonathan Fawkner, Nicolas Aithadi
The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies – Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, R. Christopher White
Interstellar – Paul Franklin, Scott Fisher, Andrew Lockley
X-Men: Days Of Future Past – Richard Stammers, Anders Langlands, Tim Crosbie, Cameron Waldbauer

Best British Short Animation

The Bigger Picture – Chris Hees, Daisy Jacobs, Jennifer Majka
Monkey Love Experiments – Ainslie Henderson, Cam Fraser, Will Anderson
My Dad – Marcus Armitage

Best British Short Film

Boogaloo And Graham – Brian J. Falconer, Michael Lennox, Ronan Blaney
Emotional Fusebox – Michael Berliner, Rachel Tunnard
The Karman Line – Campbell Beaton, Dawn King, Tiernan Hanby, Oscar Sharp
Slap – Islay Bell-Webb, Michelangelo Fano, Nick Rowland
Three Brothers – Aleem Khan, Matthieu de Braconier, Stephanie Paeplow

 

Outstanding Debut By A British Writer, Director Or Producer

Elaine Constantine (Writer/Director) Northern Soul
Gregory Burke (Writer), Yann Demange (Director) ’71
Hong Khaou (Writer/Director) Lilting
Paul Katis (Director/Producer), Andrew de Lotbiniere (Producer) Kajaki: The True Story
Stephen Beresford (Writer), David Livingstone (Producer) Pride
Best Film Not In The English Language

Ida
Leviathan
The Lunchbox
Trash
Two Days, One Night

Best Documentary

20 Feet From Stardom
20,000 Days On Earth
CitizenFour
Finding Vivian Maier
Virunga

Best Animated Film

Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
The Lego Movie

The EE Rising Star Award

Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Jack O’Connell
Margot Robbie
Miles Teller
Shailene Woodley

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A Tale of Two Trailers

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This is the kind of week we wait for in film. We were treated to not just one, but two of the most anticipated trailers in the history of the Blockbuster. Jurassic World and Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens may have only given us a few teasing moments to whet the appetite but they were enough to fuel anticipation levels and get everyone intensely talking and speculating.

 

The Jurassic World trailer came earlier in the week and because it’s due for a release on 12th June more post production has been completed so we got to see quite a bit of footage. In terms of plot there is a base to work upon here. 22 years after John Hammond’s initial attempt to bring dinosaurs back to life in Jurassic Park and create a park that would showcase these marvels it would seem someone has made this idea into a fully operational and popular attraction. Meanwhile, scientists (including the returning BD Wong as Henry Wu) are treading new genetic ground by creating the first hybrid dinosaur. The exact nature of this super dinosaur are very much under wraps and all we know are that it’s highly intelligent and kills at will, which suggests a velociraptor merged with something bigger, but that still remains a secret.

Being an obsessive follower of the Jurassic Park series it’s so great to actually see this trailer, just because it’s finally come to fruition. After years in development hell with massing uncertainty over who will direct or star or what story will be used it’s finally only six months away. Not only that but it looks great, it’s impossible to judge an entire film from a trailer but Jurassic World really does look the part and director Colin Trevorrow looks to have kept the essence of the original while adding his own style. There are only snippets of the various dinosaurs but there are plenty of them. Introducing new dinosaurs, including the massive sea dwelling Mosasaurus, and adding new dimensions to the old ones including the raptors, who are said to be working with staff member Owen played by Chris Pratt, both the human and dinosaur performances look a lot more layered than the one dimensional Jurassic Park III.

An issue with a lot of the trailers these days is they give away entire plotlines or all the best jokes in an attempt to sell the movie but there is still so much of Jurassic World which is shrouded in mystery. Does the T-Rex, the poster dinosaur for the franchise, return with a bigger role than that of the previous film? Will the raptors work with the humans or will they merely betray them? And what are the intentions of the owners of Jurassic World? Both Vincent D’Onofrio and Irrfan Khan are executives of the Masrani Corporation which own the theme park. Two big actors who we did not see in the trailer suggests that something more is afoot and I really cannot wait to see it on the big screen in a mix of excitement and pure unmitigated nostalgia.

Talking about nostalgia, whilst still getting over the trailer for Jurassic World only a few days later we had out first glimpse at The Force Awakens. I say a glimpse being it was only a minute and a half long. J.J Abrams and co have only just completed principal photography a few weeks ago and there will be still a huge amount to add in post production. Being only 88 seconds long and with a year left to complete, it lacked the flow of a theatrical trailer, but as random assortments of images go it was truly the pinnacle. Never before has an ominous voice over (Is it Serkis, Driver or Cumberbatch?) and a few out of context shots amassed so much excitement from so many.

It doesn’t answer a whole host of questions as to what’s in The Force Awakens except that it has The Millennium Falcon in all its glory, a Sith with a red lightsaber that, when ignited, becomes a crucifix shape and the X-Wings are back with Oscar Isaac at the helm of one. John Boyega’s role is uncertain, is he a Stormtrooper, or like Luke in a New Hope is he just donning the uniform and all we know about Daisy Ridley is she’s on Tatooine at some point of the film. So, lots still to speculate about. It’s been a real enjoyment in itself reading all of the various interpretations of what the various images mean. We still have a long way to go until December but from these few images it look promising.

One thing both Jurassic World and The Force Awakens are that John Williams was the composer for the original films and it is that music that really gives the trailer the extra edge over those of other movies. Interestingly, the same composer was look set to take over him for both movies, however, although Michael Giacchino is doing the score for Jurassic World, Williams is returning to the Star Wars universe once again. One thing that will be certain in both movies is the music will be spectacular.

We have been truly spoiled this week, even though the extent of that spoiling was a cumulative four minutes. At least we know that the films are on there way next year and we can go on speculating about plots and characters until they do.

What’s On The Way In 2015?

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Around this time of year, I often feel it is an ideal opportunity to start looking ahead to next year and see what movies will be released and which will be fighting it out during the awards season. It’s a great deal of fun trawling through many trailers and guessing what the future must watch films are, so here are a few of those films that I am immensely looking forward to in 2015.

Foxcatcher

Ever since seeing this first teaser trailer all those months ago, Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher has been the film I’ve been most eager to see. Already achieving a huge amount of critical praise through the festival circuit, including Cannes in which Miller won the Best Director accolade, it will finally be released to the general public in early 2015. Based on a true story in which schizophrenic, millionaire John Du Pont (played by an almost unrecognizable Steve Carell) forms an obsession with wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) winning an Olympic Gold and becomes his coach which leads down some dark roads which I won’t give away to anyone unfamiliar with the real life case. The atmosphere of the trailer is chilling, dark and intense and with Miller’s impressive oeuvre including Capote and Moneyball we can expect a dramatic thriller that will ask some real questions about the story in which it is based.

Mordecai

David Koepp and Johnny Depp reunite for a second time (Secret Window being the first) to bring us a the idiosyncratic Mordecai. It’s based on the 1970’s series of  mystery, cult novels by Kyril Bonfiglioli in which the title character becomes entangled in such plots as an assassination attempt upon the Queen of England and hunting a rapist in Jersey. In this version, Depp’s eponymous art dealer must recover a stolen painting that will lead him to Nazi Gold. Judging from the trailer Depp is perfectly cast as the eccentric Charlie Mordecai and with a stellar cast around him including Paul Bettany, Gwyneth Paltrow and Ewan McGregor  this looks like it’ll deliver on the laughs and the quirkiness.

American Sniper

The trailer to American Sniper is about as intense and dramatic as they come and would you expect anything less from the legendary Clint Eastwood? Bradley Cooper stars in his second film in two years with the prefix American as Chris Kyle from whom the source material comes from. Based on his autobiography of the same name, American Sniper charts Kyle’s tour of Iraq, his pinpoint shooting and the harrowing, quick decisions he must make with his weapon. The film looks smart and will ask questions of the audience they will probably be thinking about for a long time. What would you do in his situation? It will garner Oscar nominations (most likely for Cooper and Eastwood) and I’m very confident the movie will be a precise and interesting commentary on modern warfare.

Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

The trailer itself looks like a masterpiece and Michael Keaton is an early tip for the best actor Academy Award. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, a director with a terrific awards pedigree with 21 Grams and Babel, tells the story of Riggan, an actor who’s best days, playing the superhero character Birdman, are well and truly behind him. Instead of continuing with the Birdman franchise he decides to expand his horizons onto Broadway whilst juggling his homelife and numerous other issues. Keaton is obviously perfect for this type of role considering the downward trajectory his career took after playing Batman in both of Tim Burton’s contributions to the franchise. He is a fine actor and hopefully this will motivate a career resurgence and at least an Oscar nomination. The script sounds sharp and the cast is excellent with a truly original story. If the numerous and positive festival reviews are anything to go by then the film itself could be in with a chance of winning Best Picture.

Jupiter Ascending

Whatever you think of The Matrix sequels, and their directorial efforts since, you cannot deny that the return of The Wachowski Siblings to the genre in which they changed forever is an event. Although expected in July of this year, Jupiter Ascending was delayed until February 2015 so thousands of special effects shots could be completed. The plot revolves around Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) who is revealed to be the heir to the House of Abrasax which is the most powerful alien dynasty in the universe. However, there are three more potential heirs to contend with, including Eddie Redmayne’s Balem, who looks like he is loving every second of playing his character in the trailer. The whole thing looks epic and in every way a blockbuster. It’s asking a lot for The Wachowski’s to repeat what they did with The Matrix, maybe they will, but this looks like a very enjoyable and action packed movie nonetheless.

So there’s the main five films I will be looking forward to seeing next year. 2015 is going to be one of the biggest film years for blockbusters in recent memory with the return of Star Wars, Jurassic World, Terminator and The Avengers and with a huge amount of movies like these at the start of the year, we the audience, are going to be well and truly spoiled, which is not a bad thing at all.

A Busy Week In The Film World

Hello readers, it’s good to be back writing after a long absence. A few factors, including becoming a newly married man, have left me with no free time whatsoever and its refreshing to finally be able to open up my laptop again and start tapping those keys and talking about movies. Anyway enough about me, so much has been happening this week in the world of film that it was impossible to write a blog pinpointing on one issue. Therefore, here is a rundown in what has got the world talking:

1) There will be a Toy Story 4 in 2017

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Not content with a perfect, rounded off ending and the odd half hour episode, Pixar have decided to continue with their most successful set of films. There has been a huge amount of online excitement regarding the announcement that the franchise will continue on the big screen. However, there has been another section of people curious as to where all the original ideas have gone at Pixar. Toy Story 4, which will be directed by the legend of Pixar, John Lasseter, has been added to the list of sequels announced by the studio including Finding Dory, Cars 3 and The Incredibles 2. Although these are all probably going to be a wonderful combination of visually stunning graphics and heartwarming stories it was the consistant, fresh ideas in the early years of Pixar that earnt it so much love and respect from worldwide audiences.

It looks as though from next year we will start to see a combination of old favourites and new ideas as two original Pixar films come out in quick succession with Inside Out directed by Pete Doctor with an ambitious premise about the workings of the human mind and the less cerebral The Good Dinosaur. Fundementally, Pixar could release anything they wanted and earn huge box office receipts, that’s not what they’re about. Toy Story 4 will introduce a new generation to these characters in a film that will entertain and astonish them as the original did almost twenty years ago.

2) Star Wars Episode VII has a title

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Yes, and let’s hope that the script is better than the title that precedes it. Maybe that’s unfair, but Star Wars: The Force Awakens is going to take some getting used to. Obviously you don’t want to spend too much time scrutinising a title, no, a subtitle even, but because it’s Star Wars and therefore the biggest franchise in the history of cinema people are going to analyse it with a passion.

The Force Awakens seems more like a title plucked from the extended universe, a Clone Wars episode or Xbox game perhaps rather than a movie that’s going to make a billion dollars. It also looks like it will do away with the Episode VII part, which has been a fixture of the films since A New Hope introduced it. But as Shakespeare said “what’s in a name?” Everything else that’s come from the Star Wars camp has sounded positive, besides Harrison Ford breaking his ankle. The casting is solid with a mix of old and new, science fiction juggernaut Rian Johnson is going to be heavily involved in directing and writing on episodes VIII and IX respectively and principal production is complete. So, we’ll wait and see, maybe when we see the film the title will have a special significance, or we’ll just forget the title and enjoy the movie.

3) The Battle of The Five Armies has a new trailer

Just over a month before The Hobbit’s long, long, long awaited final chapter comes one of the trailers of the year to show us that it could of been worth the wait all along. It’s just pure action and intensity and everything that Peter Jackson does best. He knows this will most likely be his last venture into Middle Earth and is throwing everything at his denouement. There’s been so much said about these Hobbit films, especially the long debated questions: Are they too long? Can three films be justifies for a book of just over 200 pages? If this film proves both of the answers to those questions as no then it has done its job. Whereas An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation Of Smaug were pretty bloated in places Battle of The Five Armies looks like is doesn’t intend on wasting a second and treating the audience for bearing with them and paying for three separate films.

4) Tarantino has his Hateful Eight

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In January Quentin Tarantino decided to abandon his next project The Hateful Eight as a leaked, online script had left him feeling betrayed. Ten months down the line he’s calmed down, withdrawn his lawsuit and has announced his cast for the movie. A mix of fresh talent and old Tarantino alumni, the eponymous Eight have been revealed as: Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kurt Russell, Walton Goggins, Michael Madsen, Demian Bicher and Bruce Dern. Channing Tatum also stars, however, his role has yet to be revealed.

We are going to be truly spoilt in 2015, alongside massive budget, effects laden blockbusters like Star Wars and Avengers 2 it’s great to have a true event movie that is just good, old fashioned film making. Tarantino will most likely shoot on film, as is his preference and combined with another of his great scripts this is going to be a real treat.

5) Interstellar is out, and you need to see it at the cinema

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This weekend, you’ve probably seen countless Interstellar reviews already and all of them consist of immense praise for the truly groundbreaking effects, the original and exciting script that will leave your emotions all over the place and fantastic performances from the brilliant Matthew McConaughey. All, of this and more is true, it is a fantastic film that respects its audience, as Christopher Nolan is known to do, which will leave you thinking long after you’ve left your seat.

If I were just going to give one word of advice though, it would be to see it at the cinema with the big screen, the speakers blaring and the chairs rocking. It’s tempting sometimes to wait for the Blu Ray or the on demand services what with the prices of going to the cinema spiralling out of control but this is a picture that requires the environment of a darkened cinema to truly appreciate it. Just let Interstellar take you for 2 hours and 40 minutes and you’ve got an unforgettable movie going experience. An absolute triumph of a movie that wants me to go right back to the cinema and experience it all again.

So, a very busy week for film and with a huge amount of big movies coming out in the next few months I can only foresee some even busier ones on the horizon. Good to be back writing!

 

Once Bitten, Twice Shy

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This weekend, Edge of Tomorrow starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt is released. The film, about an alien invasion that requires Cruise to die repeatedly in a loop, has been gathering a huge about of positive press and looks set to make a mark on the box office.

I must admit, many months ago,when first seeing the trailer I thought it was proof of a complete lack of originality in Hollywood science fiction and told anyone that would listen that it was going to be nothing but a Frankenstein’s Monster of The Matrix, Source Code, District 9 and Groundhog Day. I would cynically declare that the only thing it would be good for is demonstrating the phenomenon of Tom Cruise looking younger than he did in Minority Report, twelve years ago, whilst his leading ladies stayed the same age. I had made up my mind about Edge of Tomorrow at that early point and left it there.

That is until the last couple of weeks ago in which our nation has been bombarded with billboards, bus posters, TV spots and chat show appearances from the movie I thought I’d never hear from again. Any Cruise film is likely to have bucketloads of publicity but this has been a pandemic. The word of mouth started to filter through and to my great surprise was hugely positive. Edge of Tomorrow has been said to be great fun, entertaining and unique, a true achievement for the summer Blockbuster. Matching this information up with the statistics (8.4 rating on IMDB and 95% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes) I am all but ready to book my ticket and get to ready to enjoy two hours of guilt free, blockbuster action, but…

When browsing through any cast and crew my eye naturally looks upon the director before anybody else. Spending many a day researching the autuer theory and writing essays regarding directors has left me eager to always see who is at the helm of a new movie. When seeing Doug Liman was directing Edge of Tomorrow I was pleased, he is a solid, competent director. He began the Bourne franchise, directed the very funny Swingers and brought together Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt on Mr and Mrs Smith. His filmography speaks for itself and he’s very versatile so what’s the worry? My worry was that within my memory bank I had repressed his last foray into science fiction. I had completely forgotten about going to the cinema in 2008 and sitting through the cinematic mess that is Jumper.

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The worst thing about Jumper was I couldn’t wait to see it. Based on a book by Steven Gould it told the story of people who can teleport all over the world but are persistently pursued by Paladins (a group of religious extremists) who attempt to stop them from “being everywhere at once”. I thought Hayden Christensen deserved another lead role after the Star Wars prequels as he had been singled out by the fans as a massive scapegoat for the trilogy. He gave a very solid performance in Shattered Glass and it seemed he just needed to be cast in the right films. With Samuel L. Jackson and the always likable Jamie Bell surely this was going to be a new franchise in the making, wasn’t it?

Unfortunately, the main problem with Jumper is that is plays like a 90 minute trailer to a franchise that will never be produced. It took so long to explain the hugely complicated notions of “Jumping”, “Paladins” and “Jump Scars” that it forgot to have a story beyond the very weak narrative of Samuel L. Jackson repeatedly going after Hayden Christensen. Then, by the time the movie gets going and we are introduced to Hayden’s mother Diane Lane in the last five minutes, who is also revealed to be a Paladin, it’s over. It just stops, and no one, anywhere is expecting this film to garner nearly enough money to make the sequel that probably would have been ten times better than this film.

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I remember reading in Empire Magazine that whilst interviewing Doug Liman, he wrote them about eight rules on jumping and how the mechanics worked. It was a great touch, but at no point are these rules really explained in the film. We have some exposition from Jamie Bell, but then its just Hayden Christensen on top of Big Ben or taking the abysmal Rachel Bilson to Rome for some sight seeing. Jumper could have been a sensation but there seemed to be too many things in the way. A sense of indulgence, a confused script and a story that commands multiple films seemed to sour something that had promise and however unlikely it may be, condemned Christensen’s actor career further.

It seems silly and closed minded not to see a movie because of one past film in the director’s oeuvre. It certainly looks like Liman has learnt from his mistakes and with a better cast and a coherent script it doesn’t look like it could go too wrong. The more I look online, the more positive the word of mouth reviews are and it is fantastic that we have some ‘surprise hits’ matching up to the X-Men and Godzilla‘s of the movie world. Although Edge of Tomorrow is hardly small budget, it’s an original(ish) idea that looks like a good, honest blockbuster. To judge director’s and actor’s on past roles can be an error, surely they should all be watched without bias and hopefully Edge of Tomorrow will be as great as people are declaring.

 

Marketing A Monster

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Gareth Edward’s reworking of Godzilla has been unleashed into cinemas and the early consensus is very positive. The reviews are looking good and it’s  already promising to be one of the blockbusters of the year. With an exciting cast headed up by Bryan Cranston and a young director, whose previous, much lower budget movie Monsters was something of a modern masterpiece, it is not surprising that anticipation for the film is huge and will do excellent business at the box office. The marketing was done very well with only sneak-peaks of the eponymous reptile being presented through a variety of teaser trailers and one sheet posters which heavily echoed the original Japanese films. Everything is in place for Godzilla to be a success.

However, some may of thought this was the case in 1998. Roland Emmerich had come off the back of Independence Day and was about to secure his place among the A-List of directors. All he had to do was direct an exciting, American remake of Godzilla which would potentially spawn a new franchise. What could possibly go wrong with a respectable cast headed by the always likable Matthew Broderick and such strong source material to work with? The result was a huge computer generated mess that was short of plot and almost killed one of the most famous movie franchises the Japanese had had for decades.

Whole dissertations could be written about problems in the 1998 Godzilla. The cringe inducing, reality defying scenes that included Hank Azaria being stamped on while filming the creature, the constant military scenes in which none of the officers realise shooting the monster won’t do anything, oh yes, and who can forget the epic denouement in which the main characters all end up in a New York cab inside Godzilla’s mouth. This is a movie that had six Hollywood screenwriters but couldn’t think of a better plotline than Godzilla having a whole spawn of velociraptor like children to chase and eat Jean Reno and his band of Frenchmen. This was one of the biggest turkeys in the last two decades of American cinema. But…

There was one perfect thing about the film. Even though it wasn’t in the movie the marketing campaign was one of the best I have ever witnessed. I was an eight year old child at the time so it was directed at my demographic, but the combination of trailers, TV Spots, poster campaigns and music videos had me and many others in such a state of anticipation that I needed to see Godzilla.

First there’s the theatrical trailer.

It’s cut so fast and frantically that you can barely pause for breathe. The constant dark skies and drizzles makes for a sense of mystery and only teases of the monster hide the average CGI that would come back with a vengeance in the movie. It was an expertly edited trailer, taking all of the best scenes and splicing them into under two minutes. It also doesn’t give too much away in terms of plot, although when we all actually saw the film witnessed how little plot there was to give away. That doesn’t take anything away from how great the trailer is at whetting the anticipation of an audience.

Next was the poster:

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With the combination of the iconic tagline ‘Size Does Matter’ and an image of Godzilla’s foot that is still ingrained into many a brain. When looking back at the poster brings back a nostalgia and familiarity. All of these teases produced a huge amount of intrigue and if the film was done well, then who knows, maybe we’d be seeing the eighth film of this franchise this year instead of the first of a new set of movies.

The factor that probably made me the most excited about the Godzilla films was the official music videos that coincided with its release. There was not one but two huge hits that accompanied the movie. There was the amazing Jamiroquai video ‘Deeper Underground’ in which a cinema is flooded by the ubiquitous New York rain as Godzilla protrudes from the screen:

Then came the  (At the time named) Puff Daddy with ‘Come With Me’:

this is such a hardcore action film theme that you wonder how the film could be anything other than a five star masterpiece after these videos.

Maybe it was a case of the studio, the now extinct Tristar, of focusing so much on the marketing and forgot that you need a story with plot and not just a series of scenes edited together in which a big CGI monster brings down buildings as people run away. There was an obvious intention of making enough money to fund future films that they forgot audiences have to like the first one. Still, the level of anticipation created by the entire campaign is a lesson to anyone wanting to sell their movie, even if that movie is a bit of a dud.

Obviously the 2014 Godzilla will be awesome. It’s going back to its roots and has clearly got more of a story than a huge lizard just destroying skyscrapers over and over before coming back to do it again. With Edwards at the helm it will live up to its interesting and exciting marketing campaign unlike its 1998 predecessor.

 

 

The Luke’s Film Blog Awards 2014

I love awards season. I love it so much that for the past three years I have been trying to get in on the action by giving my own awards (purely digitally) to the casts, the crews and the films who have made the last year great for cinema. With the BAFTA’s on Sunday and Oscar’s on their way it is the perfect time to select my own favourite actors and movies of 2013 and January of this year. I’m adding a few more categories this year to broaden the amount of films that can be represented and I hope you enjoy reading my Luke’s Film Blog Awards 2014:

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Best Film: It has been a very tough year to decide a clear winner because of the sheer quantity of quality films in 2013. I could have picked five for the best film with Rush, Captain Phillips and The Wolf of Wall Street all viable possibilities. But, this year, for its majestic special effects that juxtapose so well with a personal and psychological story of survival, Gravity wins the Best Film award. On the surface, Gravity is a relatively straightforward story of one person facing the vast isolation of space and trying to get home against overwhelming odds but with masterful direction from Alfonso Cuaron and a thrilling script (co-written from Cuaron and son Jonas) that never lets up the tension it become groundbreaking. It is certainly one of the masterpieces of recent science-fiction and truly deserves all the accolades and plaudits is received from critics and at the box office alike.

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Best Director: The master of his craft has added another classic to the canon and Martin Scorsese wins the Luke’s Film Blog best director award. The Wolf of Wall Street is kinetic, entertaining and thrilling. Not many director’s can fill three hours of cinema without wasting a frame but Scorsese succeeds and gets some great performances out of Di Caprio, Hill and McConaughey. You can’t take your eyes away from the screen and if you do you’re in danger of missing out on a beautiful looking scene. The whole film is aesthetically astonishing no matter how dark the subject matter can get and that is down to Scorsese.

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Best Actor: Shunned at the Academy Awards in which he’s already won two, Tom Hanks surely deserves some credit for his outstanding and very real portrayal of Captain Richard Phillips based on the true story of a cargo ship captain who is taken captive by armed Somalian pirates. Hanks truly excels in the subtleties of his performance. One look from Hanks can tell the audience everything about his fear and isolation and the vulnerability in the final scene shows how iconic an actor he is.

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Best Actress: Like the Best Actor, the Best Actress is another whose character faces obstacles of nature, isolation and psychological issues. Another one of the reasons why Gravity was such a masterpiece was its performances from the leads and Sandra Bullock carries the film. Its easy to get lost amidst huge special effects but Bullock’s vulnerably combined with the verisimilitude of her performance are the reasons she deserves to win.

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Best Supporting Actor: Another, like Hanks, who was denied a nomination was another interpretation of a real person. Rush didn’t feature much at all in any of the awards but it was a terrific film and one of the reasons for this was the performance of Daniel Bruhl. Playing Niki Lauda, Bruhl was cold and calculated but still engaging. In his rivalry with fellow Formula One driver James Hunt, played by Chris Hemworth, Bruhl demonstrated a great range of acting skills from arrogance to sympathy while always keeping us interested in his character’s story.

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Best Supporting Actress: David O. Russell is an actor’s director. He cares far more about the intricacy and complexity of his characters opposed to his plot and this shows in his films. Particularly in American Hustle where he assembles four actors from his past two films (The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook) that have all been Oscar Nominated. Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Amy Adams are all fantastic in American Hustle but the stand out is Jennifer Lawrence yet again. Winning the Best Actress Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook last year, she now returns as the trophy wife to Bale’s largely absent husband and is fantastic. Lawrence is quickly becoming the best actress of her generation and really possesses some of the great qualities of actresses of the Golden Age of Hollywood. It’s getting scary how talented she is at such a young age, but what a performance yet again.

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Best Ensemble: Last year’s winner of this category was the cast of Avenger’s Assemble, however the cast of This Is The End are definitely the antithesis of superheros. Playing exaggerated versions of themselves, stars like Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchul, Craig Ferguson and Danny McBride star in this wonderfully entertaining movie as they are confined to James Franco’s house while the Apocalypse is happening. They may be terrible people in some scenes but remain massively funny and likable throughout which helped This Is The End become the funniest film of the year.

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Best Original Screenplay:  Stoker was a fantastic psyschological thriller that really came out of the blue. It was shocking, exciting and provided some fantastic performances from Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode. More shocking was that it was written by none other than Prison Break’s Wentworth Miller whose chilling script is superbly written. Influenced by Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, Miller’s script mixes genres but never relents in its tension. It has a very unique style and with the directorial skills of Park Chan-Wook this became one of the best films of 2013.

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Best Adapted Screenplay: Terence Winter’s script for The Wolf of Wall Street is fast, very funny and relates Jordan Belfort’s memoir perfectly to present day economical matters. All of the characters are complex and really bring their real life compatriots to life. With some of the best and most memorable dialogue committed to film in the last decade, Winter thoroughly deserves a huge amount of credit for his wonderful script.

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Best Superhero Movie: The Superhero genre doesn’t look likely to go away any time soon and therefore I’ve decided to begin my first genre based category for the best superhero movie. We have been lucky this year with some interesting and exciting offerings like Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World but the Luke’s Film Blog award goes to Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. Rebooting the franchise after Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns failed to impress the masses, Man of Steel was hugely entertaining, and although we can joke about the huge amount of collateral damage, a truly enjoyable blockbuster that I thought deserves a great deal of credit.

So, there are my awards for the year. I’m sure 2014 is going to be a hugely successful year for film with a combination of blockbusters and independent movies to look forward to so keep going to the cinema and watching as many of them as possible and I’ll be back with my annual awards next February. Until then, watch some actual awards being given out with the BAFTA awards on Sunday evening.

Here are the links to my previous awards blogs:

Luke’s Film Blog Awards 2013

Luke’s Film Blog Awards 2012