3 Standout Blockbusters Of 2017

2017 has so far led me to become a blockbuster cynic who can only enjoy art house films, however there have been a few blockbusters that may save me from that fate. I truly believe that a great film can be delivered in the form of a high budget product because at the end of the day as long as the story and characters are engaging then that’s all that matters. Blockbusters can have depth or they are designed to switch off your brain and just enjoy them for what they are.

Here are three blockbusters that stood out for me this year for various reasons:

The Film X-Men Origins Should Have Been

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Now I’m going to say something controversial: I actually enjoyed X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009). It’s a fun, standard blockbuster. However unfortunately it is highly regarded as an embarrassment of the X-Men franchise; so that’s why I say Logan is the film that I’m sure people feel best portrayed Wolverine. So we’ve had the false start, the better but still not perfect Wolverine (2013) so in 2017 we see Hugh Jackman let go and embrace the character of Wolverine completely.

When I heard that Logan was going to be stripped back, showing “Old Man Logan” and that it was going to intentionally stand apart from the typical comic book film, I was excited. Finally a comic book film was going to take a risk and show how much can be achieved within the genre.

Logan was a solid effort which not only proved that a superhero film can have depth and be complex, but it also was a credible film in its own right. It was refreshing. That’s why I’m including Logan in this blog post about how it was a standout blockbuster, yet there was something in me from raving about it. This is not a criticism, but it by being very purposeful in being something else it almost felt calculated. Not to mention that the film could have shaved some time off because towards the end the heavy tone started to take a toll.

Overall, I still respect that director James Mangold and leading start Hugh Jackman stood out and were bold and took a risk with this film. I can’t fault them on that and that’s why I like the film. Hopefully it’ll inspire other comic book films to show the scope that you can cover within that “genre”. It certainly has worked as Logan has grossed over $612 worldwide and has received a 93% Rotten Tomato rating, what a great way to see Hugh Jackman wave goodbye to a role of a lifetime.

Fast and Furious 8

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I didn’t even come up with a witty subheading, that’s how easy going and fun Fast and Furious 8 is. I’ve always been cynical of the Fast and Furious franchise for being hollow and brainless (and this is coming from the guy who enjoyed the Michael Bay directed Transformers films), so I stayed away from the film series with no plan to watch them. However, after viewing the eighth instalment with a friend I was happy to be proven wrong. It was fun, brash, crazy, exciting and even though the characters weren’t exactly fleshed out they were formed in a way that allowed us as an audience to care for them and invest in them.

Up until that point no blockbuster this year allowed me to completely let go and suspend my disbelief to enjoy the ride. Does the franchise deserve to gross over $1 billion worldwide? maybe not. That being said, the reason why fans have responded to these films are because these films are the essence of what a blockbuster should be: crazy action and a true form of escapism. I have to give credit to Vin Diesel to producing a film series that has connected with audiences all across the world, not taking things too seriously and just having fun with these characters and crazy adventures.

Winning Wonder Woman

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76 years later after the world was introduced to Wonder Woman and she FINALLY has graced the big screen with her first solo film. After stealing the show from last years Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), fans were eager to see her lead her own film and it’s safe to say DC have a winner film on their hands. Already the film is breaking box office records and holds a 93% rating from Rotten Tomatoes. Wonder Woman has grossed over $100 million at the US box office which was the biggest weekend opener for a female director (Patty Jenkins), hopefully this will be a step in the right direction for equality of female representation in film and behind the camera.

Without a doubt Wonder Woman is not only the best blockbuster of 2017 but one of the best superhero films in over 5 years. It was refreshing to see a standalone superhero film which allowed the leading character carry the film solo and completely smash it in the process, I think the last time there was a true standalone superhero film was probably The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Gal Gadot is beyond perfect as Diana, showcasing her amazing acting talent portraying Diana’s incredible character arc with conviction and depth. Diana stands for love, justice and peace and I loved key moments where she didn’t take things lying down but stood up for what she believed in and didn’t think twice about helping others. The action scenes were slick, empowering and epic.

Fast and Furious 8 may be the blockbuster where you switch your brain off and have fun, but Wonder Woman is a blockbuster with heart, depth, emotion AND epic fight sequences and is a true spectacle. It is possible to make a blockbuster with thrills audiences but is also thought provoking and empowering for all. I’m enjoying this moment seeing a superhero film with just one superhero at front and centre before Justice League and co. take over (I am looking forward to Justice League but it’s a sad thought not knowing when the next standalone superhero film will be released).

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The exciting thing to note is that we still have the second half of 2017 to go in order to see what kind of blockbusters will be released. Even if it becomes a rubbish year for blockbusters overall (I doubt it) then at least 2017 gave us Wonder Woman.  

4 Biggest Blockbuster Disappointments Of 2017

 

We’re approaching the halfway mark through the year so I thought it would be appropriate to review the blockbusters that have been released in 2017, sadly it hasn’t been a great year. 2017 isn’t over yet so we still have some potential saving graces in the form of Wonder Woman, Justice League, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Thor: Ragnarok etc. however I have to say that certain blockbusters that I have seen have not lived up to the hype.

If you want to look at 2017 UK film releases then you would include the multiple award winning films which have been my favourite films of the year, such as: La La Land, Moonlight, Lion, Jackie, Manchester By The Sea, Hidden Figures etc. and thank goodness for these beautiful films as I am starting to lose hope for big budgeted releases. I hope by the end of the year I am proven wrong and can say that great storytelling can be seen in all type of films.

Boring and the Beast

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Let’s start off with one of the most underwhelming and highly overrated release: Beauty and the Beast. Firstly let me state that I am supportive of Disney giving their animated classics the live action treatment (as discussed in my previous post)however with the release of Beauty and the Beast; originality and creativity died and instead it assured Disney to play it safe with their upcoming live action releases. I was excited for the film before its release and I was rooting for Emma Watson as I thought she’d be perfect as Belle, however because the live action took no chances there was no room for mystery and excitement of what was to come in the film.

Interestingly enough the film has become a huge success, which sadly gives Disney permission to keep on playing it safe. The film has revived positive reviews (71% from Rotten Tomatoes) and the film has grossed over $1.2 billion worldwide making it the 10th highest grossing films of all time. Obviously the film has resonated with audiences, so I will respect those who loved the film however I can’t understand how this film has entered the top 10 of the most successful films of all time. I think I’ll stick to the original 1991 animation.

The NOT So Awesome Mix-Tape

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I loved Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and so did everyone else as the film became a fan favourite and raked in $773 million worldwide. It was unapologetic in how it delivered on the fun and it was an antidote to the ‘serious superhero film’. The sequel had a lot to live up to following the surprise smash hit first film.

After an exhaustive marketing campaign for the sequel the hype and excitement to see the film wore off, but I still wanted to see the film and I really wanted to enjoy it…yet it failed to deliver on the fun and thrills. It went down the cliche route that sequels tend to go down, take what was funny in the first film and crank it up to the highest volume. The comedy was too obvious and stupid at times. I liked Groot in the first film but did I really need to see a baby Groot figure out how to play music against the backdrop of a potentially cool action sequence? and the story was pretty underwhelming. That being said, there were some good some small moments between Gamora and Nebula as well as Yondu and Rocket, these moments allowed for some character development and appreciation. Also I think that Ayesha the Golden Priestess was underused and could have been the main villain.

Of course the film has become a huge success and has grossed over $799 million worldwide (and counting) as well as receiving positive reviews (81% from Rotten Toamtoes)so again there has been a disconnect from what audiences have felt and how I have responded to the film. However despite the fact the sequel wasn’t my favourite Marvel film I am excited for the third film and it will be interesting to see the characters in the upcoming Avengers films, so I haven’t given up on the Guardians of the Galaxy just yet.

Alien: The Pretend Sequel To Prometheus

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I will hold my hands up and say I am not a die hard Alien fan, however I have seen Alien (1979), Aliens (1986) and Prometheus (2012) so I am familiar with the franchise. With Covenant promising to return to the horror element I was interested to see how this film would continue on with what was set out from Prometheus and how it would adopt a grittier and darker style from the previous Alien films. That was the problem, Ridley Scott has openly admitted that Covenant was addressing what die hard Alien fans disliked about Prometheus, basically because there was no huge weird alien lurking round a spaceship. When I watched Prometheus I hadn’t seen any Alien film and that was the time when marketing was saying how the film was not meant to be a direct prequel but a standalone film in the same universe, so I thought I was safe in watching it without feeling left out. Then all of a sudden it WAS part of the Alien franchise, meaning Covenant had to make some major changed to please Alien fans.

Covenant was released 5 years after Prometheus because they were trying to figure out whether to make a direct sequel to Prometheus or give in and be openly part of the Alien world. I was really looking forward to see Dr. Elizabeth Shaw meet the Engineers and find out questions that were posed in Prometheus, the tone of Prometheus was slick and futuristic but no without it’s shocking moments. All I got was some 5 minute YouTube video featuring Shaw and David and limp references to the “failed Prometheus trip”. I think that’s one of the main reasons why I didn’t love Covenant, because it tried to jump full throttle ahead of what was started in Prometheus and tried to connect this film to the Alien universe. However, I enjoyed some moments and Katherine Waterston was the best part about Covenant, and with THAT ending I’m definitely interested to see what Ridley Scott has planned for future instalments.

Kong: The Unnecessary Remake

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For me the ultimate King Kong film is the 2005 remake directed by Oscar winning director Peter Jackson. I remember seeing that film in the cinemas when I was 12 and being blown away, scared and emotionally invested in what was happening in the film. I had to except that a new King Kong was inevitable as it’s not restricted to the 1933 classic nor the 2005 remake but it is a cultural pop icon meaning each generation will revisit the character. That being said I still didn’t see the point of a new Kong film, but that’s just my personal opinion.

I have to give credit to the 2017 film as it was doing its own thing and it wasn’t a remake of any Kong film, that at least allows itself to be set apart and judged on its own merit. The other factor which excited me was how it was set against the backdrop of 1970’s Vietnam war meaning it would be a colourful and vibrant take on the classic monster character. Not to mention a great cast consisting of Oscar winner Brie Larson, John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hiddleston John C. Reilley etc. However what also retracted me from being full on excited for the film was how it was intended to be part of yet another cinematic universe.

Despite my reservations I have to say I was willing to go in with an open mind and enjoy the film, sadly I was right in not believing in the film. The script was so weak and it was painful seeing brilliant actors deliver superficial and unimagined lines, the story wasn’t engaging and the characters weren’t exactly three dimensional. Yes it’s not a type of film where it requires deep exploration of character however even if it’s up to a popcorn film level standard there has to be some reason to invest and care for any character, sadly I could not have cared less about the fate of the characters. I was most disappointed in Brie Larson as it was such a superficial role that it didn’t live up to the whole ‘having a three dimensional female character in a blockbuster film’, of course it was sad to see them all play uninspired characters.

Again, a blockbuster I didn’t like made money and critics had good things to say about the film; grossing $565 million worldwide and received a 77% rating 77% rating from Rotten Tomatoes.

The only thing I took away from the 2017 version was to watch the Oscar winning 2005 version.

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Hopefully with the release of the already positively reviewed Wonder Woman and future releases in the form of Thor: Ragnarok and Star Wars: The Last Jedi we can reflect upon the year and say there were some standout blockbusters in 2017.

For the next blog post I’ll be writing about the few blockbusters that have actually caught my interest, there’ll be a few surprises in there for you of which blockbusters I loved this year.

3 Things Disney Need To Do In Order To Make The Live Action Remakes Work

Disney are riding high on the back of mega successful films that have easily sailed past the $1 billion worldwide mark at the worldwide box office; this is including the acquisition of LucasFilms Ltd. in 2012 leading to the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) which crossed over $2 billion worldwide at the worldwide box office. In addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe where each film keeps raking in the money; Disney have now hit the jackpot by giving beloved animated classics the live action treatment.

Most recently Beauty and the Beast (2017) reached the $1 billion worldwide milestone, meaning it is now the highest grossing musical of all time. Alice in Wonderland (2010) was the first Disney live action remake to reach that milestone and since then each remake has made a lot of money. So why write an article stating that Disney need to consider these 3 points to make the remakes work? Because it’s starting to feel like we’re giving critics of remakes a reason to hate them since Disney are playing it safe and not taking any risks.

1. Take Risks

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Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Maleficient (2014) received mixed reviews but made a lot of money for Disney. It could be argued that the success of these two remakes is down to the fact that Disney changed up the well known story lines and brought something fresh and unique to the table.

Alice in Wonderland cerated Alice into a warrior and injected a bit more action and adventure into the mix, meaning that it wasn’t trying to stomp over the 1951 animated classic but be set apart. Maleficent switched up the tale of Sleeping Beauty (1959) and allowed audiences to see a more complex and three dimensional character in Maleficent, it helped having Oscar winning actress Angelina Jolie bring depth to the eponymous character.

The danger Disney are in at the minute is with recent box office smash hit Beauty and the Beast they can see that playing it safe works for them. There have been rumours regarding Mulan where they might not use the songs from the 1998 animation and people thought this was a bad idea; my response to them is, “why don’t you want Disney to bring a fresh perspective to a beloved animation?” If you make the remakes too similar too the animations people will instantly compare the two when the remakes should represent the fact that they honour the animations whilst bringing their own spin on a well known tale.

(Since the rumours of Mulan featuring no songs emerged it has since been claimed that there will in fact be music….let’s hope it’s not a shot for shot take of the original like how they remade Beauty and the Beast)

2. Cast Directors With Diverse Styles

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Many would argue that Alice in Wonderland isn’t Tim Burton’s strongest work, yet no one deny the auteurship of Oscar nominee Tim Burton. His visual style is what sets him apart and adding in a dash of the gothic nature doesn’t hurt in making a well known tale your own.

Even Oscar nominee Kenneth Branagh directing Cinderella (2015) was a brilliant move, a director of his gravitas managing to stay true to what we loved about the original whilst making tweaks and managing to stand alongside the animated classic. Unlike Beauty and the Beast where it was a shot for shot remake (apart from those boring original songs everyone has probably forgotten about).

It’s exciting news to hear Niki Caro (Whale Rider – 2002) has been announced to direct the live action adaptation of Mulan (which will be released in November 2018). Bring a female director on board to this tale of an empowering heroine is a great move on Disney, however I’m hoping that she will take risks and make it an exciting action adventure ride that it could potentially be.

Bill Condon comes from a musical background so fair enough he played to his strengths with the Beauty and the Beast live action remake, however I hope that Disney allow each director to play to their strengths so all the remakes don’t feel similar or uninspired.

3. Know Which Animations To Give The Live Action Treatment

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I am not against remakes/sequels/reboots at all, but only if there is a need or a way to bring it back in a new and exciting way. With Alice in Wonderland, Maleficient and even Cinderella they all came back more fleshed out and gave reason for audiences to watch them again in a new format.

However this could be dangerous in making Disney throw away aims to create original work and revisit the films that made them who they are today. Just think about it; there are over 50 animations that Disney have made and worryingly there is a growing list of animations being given the live action treatment. Do we really need a Lion King remake? With the 1994 classic still engrained in our minds today with the help of the still popular Broadway/West End show? Dumbo is a classic which is 76 years old and it’s still arguably popular today, can’t we leave it in the past and is there really a demand to see it brought back to the big screen?

Of course all of these points are subjective and everyone will have their own opinion of which animations is deemed worthy of being made into a live action film, however the principal still stands that Disney should be more selective in their animations to remake. This would make the current remakes more impactful and special, now the notion of remaking a beloved Disney animation has lost its shine.

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In conclusion, I’m all for a Disney animated live action remake only if there is a need to do so and only if there is a way to make it unique and different to make it worth my while to watch it again. They can’t keep doing what they did with Beauty and the Beast, because in all honesty I wouldn’t bother with the live action again and I’d go straight to the 1991 animated classic. Let’s hope that Disney don’t lose that curious spirit to try new things when giving their own animations the live action treatment:

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

Beauty and the Beast (2017) Film Review

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Unless you’ve also been trapped in Beast’s castle then you’ll know that Disney are hard at work by revisiting their animated classics in live action format. This can be traced back to the billion dollar grossing Alice in Wonderland (2010) which was followed by Maleficent in 2014. Not crediting Cinderella (2015) completely to Disney’s now traditional approach to revisiting its animated classics, however since then we’ve seen Disney take less risks with remaking its animations.

Ever since the beginning of 2015 when Emma Watson was cast as Belle in the live action Beauty and the Beast, the hype has been high and audiences have been eagerly awaiting Disney’s new interpretation of it’s 1991 classic. For years I’ve been looking forward to this film, but months before once all of the promotional material was being released I had this sense that it wouldn’t be the grand and extravagant remake I was hoping for…sadly I was right.

TALE AS OLD AS TIME

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Starting with the positives I thought the film looked the part. Visually it was eye catching and I thought they captured the look and vibe of the original quite well. The characters of Lumière, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, Chip etc. were all effortlessly integrated with the live action characters (something I felt that The Jungle Book – 2016 failed to do with its CGI animals and live action characters) and I thought those characters were fun to watch and it wasn’t a huge let down from the animated versions of these characters.

With $462 million worldwide (against a $160 million budget) at the Box Office (so far) and with a 70% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, fans are clearly loving this film (for some reason). It is a tale that is as old as time (1991 feels like a century ago to most people) and since the animation’s release it has always been a part of people’s childhoods and it has grown up with people still retaining it’s relevant and popular appeal. My worry is that now Disney see that being unoriginal and not taking chances works, they’ll rehash it’s upcoming live action adaptations. I guess from a business point of view fair enough but where are the visionaries that want to do something exciting and new meaning that it can stand side by side with the originals and now replace them.

GASTON THE MOVIE: FEAUTRING BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

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If I had to single one performance out as the most committed and most convincing it was Luke Evans as Gaston. He played the arrogant bachelor to perfection, down to his singing and characterisation it was flawless. Out of all the cast I felt Luke Evans was the only one who gave 100% and the scenes with him in were more exciting than others…and that’s saying something when you’re meant to be watching the film for the leading performances of Belle and Beast.

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Speaking of the cast; Emma Watson is a great actress (she was amazing in Perks of being a Wallflower -2012 and The Bling Ring – 2013) and on paper she IS Belle. However, there were moments (especially the first half or so) where her performance felt half hearted. I know she’s singing about how everyone are peasants and she’s superior to everyone but even the animated Belle seemed more kind to the locals and in general the animated Belle was more fun to watch. It was rise and fall with Emma’s performance; the iconic ballroom scene and when she goes back to her provincial town to rescue her father were the highlights of her performance. She wasn’t bad but I expected more from her (no offence but after watching her performance as Belle I’m happy she dropped out of La La Land – 2016 for Oscar winner Emma Stone to replace her). I would say Dan Stevens as the Beast was slightly better with his performance, but I would argue that the animation team who worked on his look did an amazing job of effortlessly blending his character with the live action characters. Overall, not exactly the most exciting leading couple that have graced our screens.

TAKE CHANCES

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I will be that person that says that the animation is far more superior than the 2017 live action remake. The original is more atmospheric, dramatic, emotional, heartwarming and grand in everything from its characters to the look of the film. In 1992 Beauty and the Beast became the first animation to be nominated an Oscar for Best Picture, I seriously doubt this new version will have anywhere near that same impact today. This is why it should have done differently so that it honours the original but offers something new to today’s audience. Scenes like when Belle runs on the hill and sings, Beast offering Belle the library, even the iconic ballroom dance scene etc. were adapted half heartedly and it almost felt like they were just there because the audience were expecting them to feature in the film. The animation did all of those scenes and more with a sense of grandeur and wonder. The danger rehashing everything from the animation is the audience knows what to expect so there’s no sense of mystery and wonder.

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I understand that director Bill Condon was unapologetic about honouring the 1991 animation with only the addition of a few new songs (which added nothing new to the film) and Emma Watson’s few tweaks (which were hardly revolutionary to the character) however I would have loved it if Disney took a risk and brought something new to the table. The reason why Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Maleficent (2014) worked so well, in my opinion, was because they took a new approach to a tale that in embedded in our brains from childhood. I have no issues with remakes, only if they offer something unique and something that is worth watching again in a different format. I would have loved to see Guillermo del Toro’s version as he definitely would have bright a refreshing take of a tale so universally known and loved. Sadly he departed from the project a few years ago making way for Bill Condon to direct his unoriginal remake.

I’ve heard about a live action update for several years and I thought the decision to approach the remake in a more traditional manner was more down to the the success of Cinderella (2015) however I read that Bill Condon decided to take less chances after the success of Frozen (2013):

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“Before I arrived, they were rethinking Beauty and the Beast more radically, more like Snow White and the Huntsman. There was a lot of conversation about the War of the Austrian Succession that didn’t interest me. But then after Frozen opened, the studio saw that there was this big international audience for an old-school-musical approach. But initially they said, “We’re interested in a musical to a degree, but only half full of songs.” My interest was taking that film and doing it in this new medium — live action — as a full-on musical movie. So I backed out for a minute, and they came back and said, “No, no, no, we get it, let’s pursue it that way.” 

Even without Guillermo del Toro we could have seen a more radical and exciting version of Beauty and the Beast, because the story is far bigger than Disney itself so why not try something new?

I’ve expressed my fears for what impact the success of this film may have, however overall I would say it’s a enjoyable film which is easy and fun to watch. But it’s worrying that 26 years later Disney we’re basically seeing Disney revisit their greatest hits in the most unoriginal way possible. My advice is watch this film so you can tick it off your list, it’s not a total waste of your time, but please watch the original animation as it’s far more impactful than the 2017 version.

And The Oscar Goes To…(The 2017 Edition)

And that’s a wrap. Another year of awards season has come to a conclusion and what a conclusion it was. The 89th Academy Awards was one of the most exciting and memorable Oscar shows I have seen. I like Jimmy Kimmel and didn’t think he’d do a bad job but I didn’t realise how brilliant he’d be; he was so on point and hilarious with sharp with and really knew how to keep the audiences interest.

I’m also excited because there was quite a diverse range of films being honoured; La La Land received some big awards but so did Moonlight. Most of the winners I was so happy with and somethings it’s good for it to turn out the way you hoped but then there are some surprises which you have to go along with and are also happy about. I have to say on a less serious note I’m actually excited Suicide Squad is now an Oscar winning film, I’ll take anything for that film because I really enjoyed it.

LA LA LAND (6 WINS)

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  • Best Director (Damien Chazelle)
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Emma Stone)
  • Best Score (Justin Hurwitz)
  • Best Original Song “City Of Stars” (Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul)
  • Best Cinematography (Linus Sandgren)
  • Best Production Design (Dave Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco)

La La Land has been the front and centre during this awards season. Winning a record breaking 7 Golden Globes last month to grossing $369 million worldwide against a budget of $30 and receiving critical acclaim with score of 93% by Rotten Tomatoes, La La Land has caught people’s attention to say the least.

I am so thrilled for Emma Stone who gave such a memorable performance showcasing her hopes and dreams as well as vulnerability and bringing life to the screen. She’s a great actress in general so I’m happy she has been recognised with an Oscar win. Damien Chazelle is a visionary and created a lush and real world, it’s refreshing to see original work rewarded in this way. I loved Whiplash (2014) for which Chazelle was nominated an Oscar for Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay so I was happy for him to win this year. La La Land had to win Cinematography and Production Design; such a vision of a film. Colourful, vibrant, full of expression and wonder. Not to mention that stunning soundtrack; it’s head creating anything modern that can be viewed as iconic and Justin Hurwitz did just that.

Now onto the moment everyone is talking about. Warren Beatty is on my enemy list now; I was watching the moment La La Land was announced at the “winner” until Moonlight became the eventual winner and I was thinking “What on earth Warren!”. Whether it’s his fault or not I’m not sure but I’m sorry, he didn’t really seem “with it” so….I was shocked and confused. However, at the end of the day La La Land won 6 Oscars and was recognised for Leading Actress, Director and Music so it won big awards and I’m pleased for that. So it may not have won Best Picture but it was nominated at the end of the day and the film still has had a huge impact on people.

MOONLIGHT (3 WINS)

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  • Best Motion Picture of the Year (Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner and Adele Romanski)
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Mahershala Ali)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay (Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney)

The ACTUAL Best Picture winner was a film that was made on a shoestring budget of over $1 million and now had grossed over $25 million and now is an Oscar winning film.

Personally I would have loved Dev Patel to win but I was still pleased that Mahershala won because he gave a sensitive and multi-dimensional performance as Juan. I’m so happy for Barry Jenkins as well, he may not have won Best Director but he walked away with an Oscar for bringing to life Tarell’s play and life story to the screen for Best Adapted Screenplay so I’m happy with that result. Lastly if any film was to beat La La Land it was going to be Moonlight and I’ve made my peace with the result because it was a beautifully raw and effortless film.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (2 WINS)

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  • Best Original Screenplay (Kenneth Lonergan)
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Casey Affleck)

Even though I was hoping La La Land would win Original Screenplay I think Manchester By The Sea is deserving of this award. I was so engaged and immersed with this world that you forgot that it’s not based on any previously written material but it was perfectly constructed story. Kenneth gave a delicate touch to a story of grief and loss, it wasn’t over dramatised or heightened in emotion but it was real and natural.

As the Oscars approached I thought Denzel Washington may win his third Oscar but I’m actually happy that Casey won in the end. Denzel was great in Fences, but it was a very loud performance and seemed quite self indulgent for Washington (to showcase what an amazing actor he is) that I appreciated the nuanced performance from Affleck more. Affleck gave a quite yet powerful performance and after winning the Golden Globe and BAFTA for the same role it was no shock that he would win Best Actor.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

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Viola Davis took away the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for Fences. The film was filled with great performances but Viola was the standout and gave such a heartbreaking performance of a woman who had hopes and dreams but eventually gave them up for her husband who should have treated her better. She holds back when she needs to but let’s go when she needs to stand up for herself. After being nominated twice previously (Doubt – 2008 and The Help – 2011) I’m happy Davis is now an Oscar winning actress.

Zootropolis won Best Animated Feature Film of the Year, it was up against fellow Disney nominee Moana but Zootropolis had a very timely message so I know why it won the Oscar. A deserving win for an animation that is unique and fun yet throughout provoking and appealing to all ages.

 
Well that’s it for another year. Here’s to the 90th Academy Awards in 2018!

My Movie Life

Recently I was reading the March 2017 issue of TOTAL FILM magazine and came across a feature which interested me. Director Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko – 2001) did a feature entitled ‘My Movie Life’ in which he gave a list of movie titles he would watch in various circumstances. As I was reading the feature I thought it would be fun to do the same so here are a selection of movies that I’ve selected for these varied topics.

MY DESERT ISLAND MOVIE

Tangled (2010)

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Picking a movie for this section is hard because you have to think of a film that will have a lasting impact. Tangled is a movie which I can watch over and over again. It’s a vibrant, fun and colourful movie with a strong leading character and a welcomed modern twist on a fairytale classic. I will declare Tangled as my favourite Disney movie and will even go as far as to say Tangled has one of the best soundtracks for a Disney animation (even better than Frozen – 2013).

THE MOVIE THAT MAKES ME CRY

Never Let Me Go (2010)

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In all honestly I haven’t physically cried at this movie (the last movie I actually cried at was the 2005 movie King Kong when I was 12, no joke) but Never Let Me Go is the most thought provoking and emotionally raw movie I have ever seen. It’s a very effortless and understated movie which is also very poignant and emotionally captivating. This is a movie with a powerful ending due to its subtlety and leaves you with a lot to ponder over. You won’t be sorry to have watched it.

THE LAST MOVE I WATCHED ON A PLANE

Date Night (2010)

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Tina Fey plus Steve Carrell equals an enjoyable watch. Don’t judge me as it was 3am in the morning (I think) and it was on a long flight back home from Africa so I wanted to watch something fun and light hearted. I had watched movies like Midnight Special (2016), Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (2004)...ahem…Daddy’s Home (2015)...but Date Night is the last movie I have watched on a plane.

THE MOVIE I WISHED I DIRECTED

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

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Not that I could ever reach the towering heights of Oscar winner Peter Jackson’s brilliance but of course directing my favourite movie ever would be amazing. Directing a movie with huge spectacle rooted in depth is something a lot of filmmakers could learn from (maybe Christopher Nolan and Peter Jackson could teach the world that lesson).

MY FAVOURITE MOVIE THAT MESSED WITH MY HEAD

Gone Girl (2014)

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There’s not enough words to do justice of the major plot twist that Gillian Flynn writes for both novel and movie version of Gone Girl. The moment which really grabbed me was halfway through the book/movie when Amy says…

*SPOILER*

“I’m so glad now that I’m dead.”

I literally gasped and was so shocked. I’m pretty clueless in general but even this plot twist caught me off guard. From that point onwards the plot escalates and Amy is fully let out of her cage.

Even though I knew what would happen in the movie it didn’t lose its impact as Oscar nominee Rosamund Pike perfect encapsulates the character of Amazing Amy. The movie is brilliantly crazy in a perfectly calculated way. You’ll finish the movie trying to process everything that has happen, it definitely leaves an impact.

THE MOVIE I LOVE THAT NOBODY TALKS ABOUT 

Sing Street (2016)

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Easily one of the best movies last year! I was surprised how much I enjoyed it when I watched it at the cinema but my love for the movie has only grown stronger. There’s such an authenticity in all respects that is endearing and engaging. It also helps that it has an incredible soundtrack with songs that won’t leave you.

It is an indie movie that premiered at Sundance 2016 and sadly not many people (hardly anyone) knows about this movie from the people I talk to. There’s something fun about feeling like you’ve found a hidden gem but at the same time it’s criminal that not more people know about Sing Street. It was nominated a Golden Globe after all.

 

It’s fun trying to fit different films in various categories, it’s worth a try to do what I just did for this blog post yourself.

Arrival (2016) Film Review

 

3 STARS

Arrival has received universal critical acclaim and has grossed $130 million worldwide at the box office against a $47 million budget. Arrival also received 2 Golden Globe nominations including a nomination for Amy Adams in the Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama category. One would assume that Arrival is a great film that everyone should see, I hate to say it but I was not blown away by this supposedly fresh and unique take on the sci-fi genre. I’m conflicted because there were aspects I appreciated and I think I know what they were aiming for, however it never really clicked with me.

WHAT I LOVED

AMY ADAMS

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Amy Adams was the standout. The 5 time Oscar nominated actress can do no wrong and deserves her Golden Globe nomination for her performance in Arrival. Amy Adams has to be one of my favourite actresses because she gives powerful and diverse performances in films such as Enchanted (2007), Doubt (2008), American Hustle (2013) and Big Eyes (2014). She isn’t afraid to tackle any genre as she takes on a role and gives it her all.

This time she strips it back and there’s power in the stillness of her performance; we meet her character Louise at a moment in her life where she is numb from the hardships that life has dealt her and when the aliens arrive she has to find her purpose again. Amy Adams is captivating because you’re constantly watching trying to decipher what her character is feeling and processing as she’s dealing with the current state of events as well as dealing with the repercussions of her past.

DIRECTION

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The only other film I’ve seen from Denis Villeneuve is the Emily Blunt fronted Sicario (2015) which I loved. There are similarities in terms of his direction; he doesn’t rush the pace or tone of the film and he lets moments just be. It may be slow for some but for me it’s Denis allowing the audience to be in the moment and take in every little thing in. As I was watching Arrival I could detect the sense of direction from Denis, however towards the end it never really took off and the pay off was quite anti-climactic (which I’ll expand upon later on) but on the whole I loved his directing style.

SUBVERTING GENRE

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The one thing Arrival has going for it is that it isn’t a flashy and loud sci-fi blockbuster extravaganza; it’s very stripped back and quiet. Going back to the points about Denis’ directing style and Amy Adam’s performance there is a stillness which is refreshing and the film does it’s best to try to be thought provoking and giving little bits away to keep the audience watching.

 

WHAT I DIDN’T LOVE

ALIENS (not the film)

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What were up with those aliens? The design of the aliens were so bland and unoriginal. The whole concept of the aliens were wasted and I was disappointed thinking that Arrival would offer something we haven’t seen before and yet it was very generic in design.

THE MESSAGE

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The overall message as well didn’t really connect as much as I wanted it to. I understood what the film was going for and there’s a moment where Amy Adams asks Jeremy Renner’s character Ian whether if he knew what life would deal him would he still go for it. Without giving too much away I understood what the film was trying to convey to the audience but found it pointless and a wasted opportunity be told through a sci-fi film; there was no need for aliens to come down and serve the purpose they served. I remember the film finishing and just thinking what on earth have I just watched? Because even though I understood the overall message of the film there were still some unanswered questions.

 

CONCLUSION

From the director who brought us Sicario (2015), featuring a great cast consisting of Amy Adams (American Hustle, Her, Enchanted, The Muppets) and Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, Avengers Assemble, American Hustle, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) and the fact Arrival had rave reviews I was left feeling very disappointed and didn’t feel the film delivered on what was being promised to the audiences. There are some positives to be taken away from the film viewing (as discussed previously) however ultimately it isn’t a sci-fi that is going to become a modern day classic. Dare I say that I’d rather watch Interstellar (2014) than Arrival.

The Light Between Oceans (2016) Film Review

4/5 Stars

Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander: two reasons why you need to see this film. I think they are incredible actors and they deliver committed performances. The Light Between Oceans tells the tale of a lighthouse keeper (Fassbender) and his wife (Vikander) who rescue a baby adrift off the coast of Western Australia. This is a film that has an engaging narrative and character development which will surprise audiences along the way.

The Light Between Oceans was an emotional roller coaster because it took you places you weren’t expecting or anticipating; I was an emotional wreck and I haven’t had an experience like that in a long time. I was invested in these characters and by the time they learn the true parentage of their adopted daughter you feel their pain and the moral dilemma they face.

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Bringing it back to the leading actors of the film; they were stunning. Oscar nominee Michael Fassbender portraying Tom Sherbourne, a emotionally closed off war hero who opens himself up to heartfelt local girl Isabel Graysmark played by Oscar winner Alicia Vikander. They have a lot to explore with their characters as the film covers a long period of time so you see the actors play around with the different seasons their characters go through and it’s exciting to see so much depth in a character.

Oscar winner Rachel Weisz appears later on in the film changing the mood of the film allowing the film to explore other issues and themes. The dynamic between the cast is so natural and they all blend so well together it’s great to watch. The emotion they managed to evoke is incredible and so natural.

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I can’t say much about the film as I don’t want to spoil the different avenues the film explores however I will say that you need to bring your tissues as it definitely isn’t easy on the heart. That being said what I love about the film is how it has a good pace, without the film feeling rushed or dragged along. I’ll also say that the tone of the film is consistent despite the fact events happen which changes the direction of the film yet the tone never feels uneven or abrupt; everything is connected and feels justified to be in the film. The themes explored can be heavy but they are explored delicately and there is no sense of judgement of the characters’ actions. There are so many layers to the characters which creates engaging discussions about how they cannot be easily defined.

You need to watch the film to see for yourself how intricate the narrative development is and how each character is substantial and says a lot about humanity and our need to feel belonged; to be with each other and not isolated. There’s so much I want to say about specific scenes which perfectly sum up the themes explored in the film but I won’t spoil it for you; so watch the film and then take a few minutes to process what you’ve just seen.

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Once Upon A Time

It’s safe to say I am a Disney enthusiast, they are timeless classics that appeal to all ages. But how do people feel about Walt Disney Studios revamping these classics into a live action film? Personally I think it’s a great idea to retell these stories for a modern day audience. However I can see from both sides of the coin.

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It could be argued that in 2010 the “Fairy-Tale Adaptation” began with Tim Burton’s billion dollar grossing film Alice in Wonderland. The film was a huge box office hit and the sequel is already being filmed for a release date of 2016, entitled Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass. Whilst the film was met with mixed reviews, it did receive praise for visual style and special effects. This resulted in Academy Award wins for Best Art Direction and Best Costume.

What made this adaptation unique was how it strayed from the traditional take of the Lewis Carol tale, as envisioned in the 1951 animation. Alice would become a warrior in Burton’s adaptation, and it would shake things up for a 21st Century audience. This is why I respect this version and I am excited to see what the followup will entail.

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Fast forward to 2014 and Disney releases their twist on their classic animation Sleeping Beauty, with the Angelina Jolie fronted Maleficent. Interestingly enough, people were worried the film would flop because of its darker take on the tale. This film was a risk for Disney, a risk that paid off in full. Maleficent grossed over $758 million at the worldwide box office, which marks Jolie’s biggest commercial hit of her career and became the fourth highest grossing film of 2014. Whilst it was far from perfect, Jolie totally owned her character and allowed the tale to be seen from a different point of view.

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Following the success of Maleficent, Cinderella was released in March 2015 and so far has earned more than $340 million at the worldwide box office (and still counting). Interestingly enough, the Kenneth Branagh version has been met with critical praise, for Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent received mixed reviews. Whilst the latter two films mentioned were box office hits, critics were keen to point out that Cinderella remained faithful to the original and yet managed to update it for a modern day audience.

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Regardless of it’s critical reception, Disney have obviously tapped into a growing market and have already started planning adaptations of their animations. In March 2017 they will release Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens. Disney have recently announced their plans to release a live action version of Mulan (release date TBC). Two versions of The Jungle Book are being released (Disney version being released in 2015 and Warner Brother version being released in 2016) and Winnie the Pooh has been given the green light for a live action make over.

On the other hand, I do see the other point of view where Disney could be accused of lacking originality. People have grown up with these animations, including myself, and have their own connection to them and fear these adaptations may taint them. The great thing about the live action adaptations is that it gives directors creative freedom to go deeper into what the animations explored, without disowning what came before.

Straying away from fairytales, a quote from Jurassic Park is appropriate for this post: “Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Is this true for adapting animations into live action feature films? Whatever the answer is, it seems to be working. Personally, I welcome someone to share a new take on a well known tale.

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I loved how even with Universal’s Snow White and the Huntsman, they created a new version for a well known story. I loved Jolie’s take on a classic villain and I’m interested to see what the sequel to Alice in Wonderland (having a 6 year gap in-between both films) has in store. I love Disney animations, but I’m just as excited to see these universally known classics adapted for a modern day audience.