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.  

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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

3/5 stars

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.

I See The Light Of TANGLED (2010)

I See The Light has to be one of the most stunning Disney songs and is the part of the most breathtaking scene in the film. The song was nominated for an Oscar in 2011 (I love Toy Story 3 – 2010 but in my opinion I See The Light is superior to We Belong Together) and is the jewel of the film. Thankfully there are plenty of heartwarming, light, dramatic moments in the film and instead of doing a formal film review, I would like to single out three scenes that represent what a quality film Tangled is.

When Will My Life Begin?

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The opening song in this scene is a great way to kickstart what I would consider to be the best soundtrack to a Disney animation. Rapunzel is introduced to us as her teenage self, and she basically gives us a run down of her day to day activities in the most fun way possible. Whilst on the surface it seems like a nice montage, there’s a lot you can actually unpack.

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room; yes, many may question Rapunel’s spirited nature despite her oppressive circumstance. However, this is a Disney film and some could argue if that’s the only life she’s only ever known then I guess she is the walking example of ignorance is bliss (to be fair she has a nice set up).

As soon as you hear the first strums of the guitar strings, you’re instantly put in a good mood. I love the pop vibe that the soundtrack has, filled with hit worthy songs. I love the humour in this scene and that is credit to Pascal (my favourite sidekick, levelled with Maximus) as he doesn’t need to speak because his face says it all. There are moments in the song where Rapunzel uses him to be a puppet for ventriloquy purposes; from him holding a candle triple the size of him to my favourite part…him being in a dress. This shows the unique friendship between the two because Pascal is willing to do anything for Rapunzel. The montage is so quick that it’s only when you actually stop to think about those small moments that it makes you smile and laugh.

As mentioned previously, this scene does give the whole being “locked up in a tower” thing quite the glossy makeover. However Disney acknowledges the truth of her situation by representing her as someone who knows there is more in life. Despite the fact that Rapunzel has made the best out of her indoor situation she still longs for the outside world and her only dream is to see the lights that appear on her birthday. There’s something missing from her life and though she doesn’t know the details as to why, she has a basic understanding that there is something better for her out in the world.

I’ve Got A Dream

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This is such a hilarious scene; Rapunzel and her innocence captivates the group of thugs and eventually she unearths the soft core in all of them. My favourite moment of this scene is when Rapunzel silences the whole pub by summarising her dream of seeing the lanterns and appealing to them by exclaiming, “Find your humanity!” She shows courage and is not afraid to let anyone stop her from fulfilling her dreams.

What seemed to be a rough establishment actually transforms into an almost therapy-like session. Through song and dance, and through sharing everyone’s dreams, the scene counteracts the brutal outward appearances. I love the juxtapositions in this scene. We see a big rough guy singing about his love of being a pianist, others singing about their love of ceramic unicorns and baking. It’s a total subversion of the stereotypes of masculinity but overall the scene is a lot of fun.

In turn, I love how Rapunzel isn’t fazed by her surroundings and saw something in the thugs that others didn’t see. There’s a funny moment where Flynn’s confused facial expression on his face perfectly conveys his confusion as to why this rough crowd is singing about their hobbies all of a sudden. He’s basically mirroring the audience, and that’s what makes this scene genius, it turns expectations of their heads and shows how we can’t judge things from their outward appearance.

I See The Light

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This scene showcases the captivating power that animation has and in my opinion displays Disney as the forefront of animation. Watch it and you’ll understand why I’ve selected this scene to showcase why I believe Tangled is truly one of best Disney films.

There is such an innocence and heartwarming feeling. The fact that Flynn and Rapunzel are naturally falling in love with each other after spending quality time together beforehand makes it feels organic and natural. This scene, in a way, is also the emotional climax of the film in a way. Rapunzel asks Flyn what will happen if this dream she’s had her entire life doesn’t live up to her expectations, to which Flynn reassures her it will be. It is the most sincere moment of this scene:

“…and what if it is? What do I do then?”

Flynn: “Well that’s the good part I guess, you get to go and find a new dream.”

Cue the most mesmerising scene is animation with the glowing lanterns creating a warm and atmospheric feeling, not to mention the beautiful song that is being sung by the two leads. The film has been leading up to this moment and it means a lot to see Rapunzel being lost in the moment and achieving her dream.

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You may have guessed it but I would have to say Tangled is my favourite Disney film. I honestly could have written a lot more to further back up my claim but the best way to convince you is to watch the film itself. Of course films like The Lion King (1994), Beauty and the Beast (1991) and The Little Mermaid (1989) etc. are iconic and classics but Tangled incorporates classic Disney conventions whilst being modern and exciting (after all I did mention that it would be my Desert Island Movie in my previous post).

It would be criminal of me to leave out mentions of other brilliant moments from Tangled, so here they are in a nutshell:

Honorable Mentions

  • I am a despicable human being/BEST DAY EVERRR!
  • “Mother Knows Best” scene.
  • Rapunzel and Pascal interrogate Flynn.
  • Maximus and Flynn have to settle their differences for a day to make Rapunzel’s birthday one to remember.
  • “Rapunzel Know’s Best” scene.
  • THE WHOLE FILM!

And The Oscar Goes To….(Part 1)

As a self confessed film geek it’s easy to assume the Oscars are the most exciting time for film during the year. I’ve always been aware of the Oscars but it wasn’t until 2011 when I started watching the televised show (from 11:30pm until 5am the next morning in the UK). From that moment onwards I’ve been obsessed with all things Oscars and really enjoy discussing the list of nominees and debate who was deserving or more deserving of the award.

Instead of doing an in depth analysis of the 2017 Academy Award nominees I thought I would go through the past 6 years and pick out some highlights.

NATALIE PORTMAN – Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role 2011 – Black Swan (2010)

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During the first year of watching the Academy Awards live I was cheering on Natalie Portman to win the Oscar for her leading role in Black Swan. I think this is her strongest performance (Jackie – 2016 showcases yet another powerful performance however) as she effortlessly portrays the complexities and emotional range of her character Nina. She gives it everything and more for a bold performance with conviction. The third act where we actually see the performance of Swan Lake is like a mini film in itself and Portman gives a impacting performance that will be talked about (at least by me) for years to come. I can’t believe it was 6 years ago since she won.

This year Portman is nominated for her third Oscar for her leading performance in Jackie (2016). I would say that with Black Swan it was the journey of her character from a mindset of a little girl into becoming a woman and with Jackie it’s showcasing Portman at more of a mature and levelled performance of a headstrong woman. I would love for her to win her second Oscar but if Emma Stone wins for La La Land (2016) instead I’ll think, “…at least Portman has won an Oscar for my favourite performance from her.”

The King’s Speech v Inception: Dawn of the 2011 Best Picture Winner

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It’s exhausting to make a list of who was snubbed or deserved to win because at the end of the day it won’t make a difference and the world moves on. However, only on certain occasions will I voice my upset at injustices that occur on Oscar night.

First of all I love The King’s Speech (2010), it deserved the critical acclaim and Oscar nominations. Yet 6 years on and I still wish that Inception (2010) had won Best Picture and any award that Christopher Nolan was up for (I can’t believe he wasn’t nominated Best Director). This film was a spectacle that had a sense of realism and depth, Nolan had made an epic blockbuster that could be taken seriously and that was pure quality on every level.

That being said, I guess at the end of the day it’s not all about the awards and Inception is still an incredible film regardless…but still.

J-Law Reigns Supreme

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You’ll be shocked to know but in 2013 I only knew Jennifer Lawrence from The Hunger Games (2012) but knew she had been previously nominated in 2011 for Winter’s Bone (2010). Despite the fact I hadn’t seen Silver Linings Playbook (2012) I was still happy that she won because Jennifer Lawrence deserves all the Oscars in the world.

Since then I have watched Silver Linings Playbook and I’m glad to say she is deserving of the Oscar. She plays Tiffany who is bold and unapologetic yet still has insecurities and wants to be loved like everyone else, Jennifer Lawrence perfectly portrays the character which cemented her as the second youngest Oscar winner at the age of 22. She also broke records as being the youngest actress to have received 4 Oscar nominations in 2016 after being nominated for Joy (2015).

The Year I Learned To Pronounce Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Name

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2014 saw 12 Years A Slave (2013) take the Academy Awards by storm. The film won Best Motion Picture making history with director Steve McQueen being the first black director/producer to win the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture of the Year. A well deserved win for its brutal and honest portrayal of one of the most horrific times in history carried by stellar performances.

Amongst the nominees was Chiwetel Ejiofor, and it was in 2014 I finally learned to pronounce his name so I could tell people who I wanted to win for Best Actor. He won the BAFTA (Matthew McConaughey wasn’t nominated a BAFTA so that’s why, but Ejoiofor still deserved to win) but lost out on the Golden Globe and Oscar to McConaughey. In all honesty I haven’t seen Dallas Buyers Club (2013) so I can comment on McConaughey’s performance, all I can say is that Ejiofor gave one of the most convicting performances I have ever seen. So for him to lose out on the Oscar was quite disheartening, that being said at least he was nominated which is still an achievement. Oscars aside Ejiofor’s performance is still one that I remember as being one of the most captivating performances I’ve seen.

If anything the best thing I can take out of 2014 Academy Award experience is now I can correctly pronounce his name.

It Got Real

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2015/2016 wasn’t the best time for the Academy Awards. It was the years where no person of colour was nominated in the acting categories. I think it’s definitely a conversation that needed to take place and it’s great to see diversity in this years list of nominees, however people looked at the situation in a black and white perspective (sorry for the pun).

Yes the acting category was lacking in diversity however overall it was actually not as bad as people made it out to be. Here are some examples:

  • Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu won 3 Oscars for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014).
  • Oscar winning actress Marion Coitllard was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role for Two days, One Night (2014) who is French and her performance is entirely in the French language (her second nomination to do so).
  • Whilst Selma (2014) was criminally overlooked it was with great pride that John Legend and Common (both black musicians and actors) took home the Oscar for Best Original Song (Glory).
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu again took home an Oscar for Best Director in 2016 for The Revenant (2015).
  • Alicia Vikander, a Swedish actress, won Best Supporting Actress for her performance in The Danish Girl (2015).
  • Asif Kapadia, a British Indian director, won the Oscar in 2016 for Best Documentary – Feature for his work on Amy (2015).

I’m not saying that there wasn’t an issue and something to talk about however let’s not take away that special moment for these filmmakers and actors who are from diverse backgrounds. Diversity doesn’t just mean black and white but it means different walks of life being reflected. Chris Rock hosted the show in 2016 did a brilliant job at addressing the controversy. Basically he was saying how it’s interesting how now people are going mad and boycotting yet there has been harsher discrimination in the past, he also mocked the impact of Jada Pinkett Smith’s decision to boycott the Oscars and he concluded by saying basically all that needs to be done is actors of colour need to be given equal opportunities in securing roles.

That being said it’s so good to see so many great and diverse films being recognised this year: Fences, Hidden Figures, Moonlight, Loving, Lion etc. and may it long continue.

Leo’s Moment

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I loved all the memes where Leonardo DiCaprio was searching for his Oscar and of course all the jokes were based in the truth that he should have won an Oscar long ago. However, at the end of the day he is still an incredible actor; whether he is an Oscar winner or not. I would say let’s enjoy his work and appreciate it rather than focus purely on the awards, plus being nominated for 5 Oscars before The Revenant (2015) is impressive.

Then his most brutal, gruelling and committed performance was seen in 2015 with Oscar winning Alejandro González Iñárritu’s latest effort The Revenant. I remember reading reports of how the film had gone over budget and how it was taking longer than it had planned to due to the visceral filming conditions so it was a relief to see that not only was it a critical success but a box office hit, grossing over $530 million worldwide against a $135 million budget.

The Revenant was an spectacular; visually and performance wise. It may have not been the best film ever but it was more of a film that showcased the skills of Oscar winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and performances from the cast including Leonardo DiCaprio. This is the film that finally saw the legendary actor win an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading role in 2016. His Oscar glory came 22 years after first being nominated for his performance in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993). Many have said whilst he deserved it that really he should have won for other performances; to that I would say fair enough but if anything his performance in The Revenant showcased the level of sheer dedication and determination to fully immerse himself in a role. I don’t care what anybody else says, this was his moment and the moment the world had been waiting for. As his name was announced as the winner he received the loudest applause and a standing ovation, a touching moment showing how everyone was behind him and overjoyed for his win.

Funnily enough I never saw him as a serious actor until Inception (2010) and then discovered his work previously and have kept up to date with it since. Whatever your opinions of his relationship with the Oscars, the wait was worth it and he is a terrific actor Oscars or no Oscars.

To Be Continued

The 85th Academy Awards® will air live on Oscar® Sunday, February 24, 2013.

As I was writing this blog I realised I had a lot to say about my experience with the Oscars since I started watching them live in 2011. It won’t be in chronological order as I recount favourable or memorable moments but it will be a good overview of recognising incredible talent and interesting moments in Oscar history. Do you have any moments where you were happy or unhappy with a certain win? Feel free to post your comments and share this blog post.

 

Allied (2016) Film Review

Hello readers of Collision Film.

Sorry that it’s been a while since I last wrote a blog post but I have some exciting news. I have started writing for Creators.co which is a publishing platform for any enthusiastic and passionate writer, and their goal is to help writers build their brand and to find their audience. So I have been doing my research and finding out more about this platform. Last week I posted my first film review and want to share it with you all at Collision Film.

Here is the link to my review at Creators.co. (click on Creators.Co to be taken to my film review)

But I would like to share it with you on Collision Film as well so here is my film review of Allied (2016):

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4 STARS

Allied is a film that I have been looking forward to watch all year; it features two leads who happen to be some of my favourite actors. Back to the Future (1985) master Robert Zemeckis allies Oscar winners Marion Cotillard and Brad Pitt to make a romantic epic that grips you and keeps you emotionally invested.

The film tells the tale of intelligence officer Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) and resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard) falling in love during their mission in Casablanca. The film chronicles their love story through the time following and audiences will see how their relationship fares given their occupations of being spies. The chemistry between Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard is convincing and a joy to watch; we get to see them during the course of their relationship and yet discover them as individual characters.

Allied covers quite a lot in the narrative; the first act where they meet on their mission is almost like a mini film. Smartly paced, with a sense of mystery and anticipation of how their mission will fare, the film doesn’t try to hard as it feels effortless. Marion Cotillard exudes mystery and class as seasoned resistance fighter who has been in the game long enough to know how to work people. Brad Pitt’s character has a different approach as a man with a quite yet firm exterior, yet he manages to work well with Marianne Beausejour forming a bond that will help them get through their mission.

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After their time in Casablanca is really where the story heats up. Adapting to life in London can they truly be trusted? Because we’ve spent enough time with them during the early days of their relationship we are emotionally invested in these characters and how they can coexist together when their occupations have taught them to do otherwise. There is never a dull moment in this film because it keeps you guessing and keeps you interested to see where the story goes. There are times in the film where we’re not sure whether to trust these characters or whether to root for them; I love how Allied plays with people’s emotions and keeps the audiences interest.

There is so much to admire in the film; from the locations to the costumes. There is such an elegant feel to Allied and you can’t help but think of classics such as Casablanca (1942) of which the film references in the early stages of the film. Whilst the film is heavily stylised there is a natural feel to the film which is largely due to the lead actors performances. You’ll walk into this film thinking it’s one thing but this film is more three dimensional than you may think.

If you love Marion Cotillard and Brad Pitt then definitely watch Allied. Robert Zemeckis switches it up again as we have seen him go from 80’s favourite Back to the Future (1985), to Oscar winning Forrest Gump (1994) even to The Polar Express (2004). This is definitely a film that will leave you needing a moment to compose yourself after the film has ended.

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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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The Confessions of a Film Blogger: Foreign Language Films Edition

It’s no secret that I have watched my fair share of films; I have the film collection at home to prove it and this blog hopefully highlights my diverse taste in film. However there are still plenty of titles that I have yet to watch and I’m forever on a quest to watch films I haven’t seen before. So I thought I’d be honest with what I have seen and the many films that I need to watch. For this blog post I will be focusing on foreign language films and how I have only scratched the surface.

Foreign language films are an interesting topic because it can be quite divisive; you either love them or can’t stand reading the subtitles so you give up on them entirely. The reason why I love foreign language films is because you are given access to stories told from different cultures and your horizons are broadened in your taste in film. Just to clarify I can only speak English so films in any other language are foreign to me.

I’ll give you a rundown of the films that I have watched and loved. Now by writing this post I am not declaring myself a foreign language film expert yet an aspiring one; I hold my hands up and say I don’t watch as many as I should and hopefully that will be corrected in due course.

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(Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo in Breathless – 1960)

Out of the foreign language films I have seen the most popular language I have listened to is French. There’s no specific reason why this is but I have to say I love the French language but I also enjoy watching American or British films set in France (which defeats the whole “aiming to watch more foreign language films than English spoken films but it still counts, kind of). I remember in Sixth Form we learned about the French New Wave which really fascinated me and was very enlightening learning about prominent directors François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. The movement was a rejection of period pieces or literary adaptations and instead focused on more current issues, this was very unconventional at the time and the films were inspired by the works of Hollywood greats such as Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, Charlie Chaplin etc. after their works had been banned in France during WW2.

The films I studied were The 400 Blows (1959), Breathless (1960) and Shoot the Piano Player (1960). I loved studying and watching these films as it’s an interesting part of cinematic history. I remember watching The 400 Blows and not connecting with it straight away but after learning it was inspired by François Truffaut’s upbringing it had more meaning and made the film more personal; he broke away from traditional filmmaking and focused on youth and growing up whilst finding your identity.

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(Marion Cotillard in her Oscar winning role for La Vie en Rose – 2007)

Two of my favourite French films are Love Me If You Dare (2003) and La Vie en Rose (2007) both starring Oscar winning actress Marion Cotillard (becoming the only actor to win the Academy Award for a performance in the French language for La Vie en Rose). Love Me If You Dare boasts terrific performances from Guillaume Canet and Marion Cotillard, having a dynamic chemistry and brilliantly exploring their characters over the course of many years. It’s a fun yet dangerous game they play which makes it an exciting watch for the audience. La Vie en Rose is a very different type of film, depicting the tragic life of Édith Piaf. Marion Cotillard gives everything and more to portray Édith Piaf honestly and with conviction; you buy into her performance.

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I’ve also watched Amélie (2001) years ago (in all honesty I should watch it again to refresh my memory) but it’s a film I had heard about for a long time and needed to see. It also has the iconic poster of the eponymous character looking rather ambiguously to the audience. I even managed to visit Café des 2 Moulins in Paris where Amélie works which was a cool experience. I’ve always had an interest in foreign language films and I’m so glad that I’ve never limited myself in what I watch otherwise I wouldn’t have experienced this classic…which didn’t win me over completely but at least I gave it a chance.

The Artist (2011) can be included in the discussion of films produced in other countries because whilst no words are uttered it is a French production with prominent French actors featured within the film. I love how successful it was at the box office and during the awards season, Jean Dujrdin became the first French actor to win an Oscar and the film was the first French film to win an Oscar for Best Picture. Whilst this focused on the age of silent films in Hollywood I love how it was another country that produced this film.

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(Marion Cotillard in her Oscar nominated performance for Two Days, One Night – 2014)

Referring back to Marion Cotillard, she also gives a raw and vulnerable performance in Two Days, One Night (2014) a Belgium film that isn’t flashy but is an honest depiction of a woman’s pursuit to save her job whilst at risk of being voted out so that her colleagues can earn more money for their bonuses. Marion’s performance keeps you watching as you root for her character and even though yes the majority of the film is herself knocking on doors begging to keep her job, you don’t feel that it’s repetitive or mundane as it shows the true strength of her character. I love how Marion Cotillard can effortlessly go from huge blockbusters to low budget foreign language films.

Recently I watched Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) by Mexican film director Guillermo Del Toro. It won three out of six Oscar nominations (including a nomination for “Best Foreign Language Film of the Year: Mexico”) and opened to critical acclaim. I love how original this film is and how Guillermo Del Toro was inspired by fairy tales but creating his own stories set in the backdrop of the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. Ivana Baquero (Ofelia) would have been 12 when the film was released and she holds the weight of the film on her shoulders with ease. Fairy tales at their essence can be dark and twisted and I love how Guillermo has fully embraced that; I would have never experienced this is I limited myself to only English spoken films.

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(Pan’s Labyrinth – 2006)

I’ve never had an issue with having to read English subtitles;  yes I am aware of them at first but in time that awareness almost fades away and I’m completely immersed in the story being told. Subtitles do not prevent me from enjoying or being invested in a foreign language film. Also the benefit of watching a film produced from another country is gaining an insight into other stories being told and yet what may surprise people is how universal and relevant the themes are to all audiences.

Despite the fact I have watched quite a few films not in the English language I still have plenty of foreign language films to watch; I have a long road ahead of me but I’m excited for the challenge. Some titles that I have had my eye on but never watched are Son of Saul (2015), Rust and Bone (2012), The Hunt (2012), A Royal Affair (2012) and the list goes on. If you’ve never really given foreign language films a chance I would encourage you to try a few titles and see how you find them; I know I need to grow my knowledge of what stories are out there being produced by other countries. It will help us get out of our “American/British film minds” and be more aware of what is going on in our world.

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(2016 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year – Hungary) 

Doctor Strange (2016) Film Review

3/5 stars

Marvel needs no introduction. Pioneering the whole cinematic universe concept they have managed to create one of the most successful franchises of all time. Now Marvel returns with its 14th cinematic outing with Doctor Strange feating Benedict Cumberbatch as the eponymous character. The premise of the film is that Doctor Stephen Strange is a highly talented yet arrogant neurosurgeon who learns the ways of a sorcerer after trying to find healing. Does Doctor Strange live up to the hype? no.

I really wanted to like this film as Marvel has an impressive track record with producing quality blockbusters (with some blemishes). However the film didn’t quite have the emotional punch it needed for the audience to root for Strange and to ultimately care what happens to him over the course of the film. Speaking of Strange we need to talk about Benedict Cumberbatch; overall he played the part well yet there were moments where it didn’t feel authentic and at times felt forced. However by the end of the film he comes into his own and despite some rough patches in the development of his character he emerges the hero Marvel were trying to create.

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Doctor Strange boats an impressive cast: Oscar winner Tilda Swinton (The Ancient One), Oscar nominees Chiwetel Ejiofor and Rachel McAdams as well as Hannibal’s Mads Mikkelsen. There was controversy with the casting of Tilda Swinton with many accusing Marvel of whitewashing the character, whilst this is a problem with Hollywood at the moment I think the decision to make The Ancient One a woman was a great move. It’s refreshing to see a prominent female led character be treated equally alongside the rest of the male cast members (we’re waiting for that Black Widow movie Marvel) and of course Tilda Swinton was incredible.

Speaking of female representation in Marvel films we have to look at Rachel McAdams who was sorely underused in the role of Christine Palmer. Fresh from her Oscar nominated role in Spotlight (2015) and with more of a decade of acting under her belt she was resorted to a forgettable role which could have been played by anyone. It was also frustrating to see her portrayed as quite a weak doctor and being told what to do all the time, Rachel McAdams is capable of so much more which is why it was frustrating to see her in this role.

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The one thing I have to applaud Marvel with is making one of the most “standalone” films in quite a while, rarely relying on numerous mentions of the Avengers to keep audiences interested. Many people complain about origin stories yet I have no issue with them, however Doctor Strange at times felt rushed. We’re first introduced to Strange in the operating theatre and in all honesty he wasn’t as arrogant as other characters tried to highlight, and then in what felt like minutes later he is involved in a fatal car accident changing his destiny forever. It didn’t have the impact it should have had because it just felt like a sequence of events; then after an outburst of not getting his way he logically heads to the mountains in Nepal only to mock the concept of healing and spirit when he arrives. I won’t go on as I don’t want to spoil the film but in short, it felt very underwhelming for what it should have been.

Marvel do have their own “comedic” style which people seem to enjoy yet in this setting it felt out of place. This is a man who has had everything wrenched from him and is at the lowest point in his life so when he arrives Kamar-Taj you’d think he’d be a bit more desperate. At times it felt that the film sacrificed emotional and deep moments in favour of “comedic” efforts, preventing it having that emotional punch. However there is one scene between The Ancient One and Doctor Strange which was my favourite scene later on during the film which showcased what the whole film could have been.

There were some standout moments which were exciting: when Doctor Strange faces off against Kaecilus (Mads Mikkelsen) for the first time and when The Ancient One showed everyone up for example. The action and spectacle was present and great to look at which made the film enjoyable, yet as much as the visual effects were impressive please stop comparing it to Inception (2010) Doctor Strange is no Inception.

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It’s no secret that despite my love for the Marvel Cinematic Universe I have issues with the interweaving nature of it’s story lines and the film’s dependancy on each other. Yet Captain America: Civil War (2016) had impact in character development and narrative, so from that film to Doctor Strange was very much of a let down.

Overall whilst Doctor Strange had some flash and exciting moments with some good performances from its cast members; it didn’t delve deep enough in order for the audience to care for Doctor Strange and it felt very underwhelming in how it used some its characters and where it took the story.

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Top Ten Films (6-10)

Ranking your favourite films may seem like an impossible task. Over recent years my definitive list of my favourite films has evolved into multiple lists of films; you have your favourite animated films, favourite genre films, films to watch when in need of cheering up, films to watch when you’re feeling pensive etc. in short it’s easy to compile many lists when it comes to films and that’s fair enough. So I set the challenge of listing my top ten films of all time.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a singular list of my favourite films and I’ve noticed there is more of a mixture than before and there aren’t as many blockbusters as people might expect and surprisingly no Disney films have made the cut. I noticed that there is only one “classic” film in the mix and I want to assure people I love films from all eras however upon compiling this list they just didn’t make the list. There are films that I love and could re-watch yet they are more personal favourite films that are so good but not “Top 10 List” worthy.

To make things interesting I’ve decided to list my top 10 in two parts: focusing on the lower half of the list first and then revealing the top 5 later on this week in another blog post.

10. Casablanca (1942)

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What’s not to love about this film: Iconic lines (“Here’s to looking at you kid”, “We’ll always have Paris” etc.) Imposing soundtrack led by “As Time Goes By” (which acts as a running motif throughout the film), exotic location, classic movie stars and more. I love how this film takes place mainly in one location (Rick’s Bar) and yet so much is unpacked between the characters. If you need to start watching more classic films then start with Casablanca. 

9. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

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I love everything about this film. Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett are mesmerising in their performances as Benjamin and Daisy and the cinematography is beautiful. The incredible thing about this film is how the audience goes on the journey with Benjamin (Brad Pitt) and what an odyssey of life it is. David Fincher manages to allow the audience to feel like you’ve just experienced a lifetime in the space of a few hours by the end of the film. It’s a thought provoking film covering themes such as mortality, identity and making sure we take a hold of life and the experiences it has to offer. It is a lush film and is full of emotion, fleshed out characters and the film really engages the audience.

8. The Artist (2011)

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A story told without any words. It’s a testament to great storytelling that no words are  uttered yet so much was said in the performance of the incredible cast, accompanying music and the interesting look on the rise of “talkies” and the demise of silent films. It’s an ode to the Hollywood of old saying that these types of films are gone but never forgotten. It was such a refreshing film to watch in this day; that’s why it’s on my list because it wasn’t afraid to be different. The Artist was a phenomenal success; making it the first French film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture in 2012 and grossing over $133 million world wide (against a $15 million budget).

7. Like Crazy (2011)

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Raw. Authentic. Natural. Organic. Emotional. Effortless. These are the words in how I would describe Like Crazy. It’s a refreshing watch to see everything stripped back and to see the film just be. Lead by the Oscar nominated Felicity Jones and the late Anton Yelchin, these two have perfect chemistry and carry the film with ease. Something to add to their amazing performances is that most of the film was improvised as they only had a 50 page outline of the film rather than a traditional screenplay; this explains how the film feels so natural in its delivery. It’s beautiful, tragic and honest.

 

6. Inception (2010)

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Christopher Nolan is easily one of my favourite directors and if I could fit all of his films in this list I would; yet I think Inception is his best film and here’s why. Nolan has a slick and sophisticated look to his films and I love how bold and ambitious Inception is; led by a stellar cast and thankfully it treats the audience with respect without having to dumb anything down. Inception also has one of my favourite soundtracks of all time, Hanz Zimmer creates an imposing and extravagant sound to compliment the grand nature of the film whilst being able to tap into the more subtle moments of the film. Extra points for the fact this film is an original story; this is how a blockbuster should be done.

In order to find out which films made it into the top five of my top ten list just wait until my next blog post. Feel free to comment on whether you agree or disagree with my list so far and even try and guess which films will be my top choices.