Monday, 13 April 2015
Tuesday, 10 March 2015
Monday, 9 March 2015
Sunday, 1 March 2015
Friday, 27 February 2015
Sunday, 22 February 2015
Wednesday, 18 February 2015
Tuesday, 10 February 2015
Small edit: It has been pointed out to me that I entirely missed the fact that the new Spider-Man movie will take the release date of "Thor: Ragnarok" and push the rest of the MCU movies back a bit, delaying for example "Black Panther" for half a year, until we are getting back into the original release schedule with "Avengers Infinity War Part 1". However, this is more of a minor annoyance than something that actually worries me.
Monday, 9 February 2015
Friday, 6 February 2015
Thursday, 29 January 2015
“The Imitation Game” stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley and is directed by Morten Tyldum. It focuses on the story of Alan Turing, the British mathematician who managed to crack the German Enigma code, significantly helping the Allies in WWII. Oh, and also he is gay in a time in which that was a criminal offence, so it’s kind of “Satan’s Alley” with maths, and if you understood that joke, congratulations. It definitely caught the eye of the Academy, netting eight nominations.
The story of Alan Turing is frankly amazing, there’s no doubt about that, and for some reason this is the first major film made about him. Benedict Cumberbatch, who was my major concern about this movie, is well-cast and he creates an interesting character. I was worried that he would just rehash his “Sherlock” performance, which launched a well-deserved career, but also became kind of expected of him. At this point I’ was actually not convinced that Cumberbatch has great range as an actor. And I remain unconvinced, but that does not mean that this wasn’t a great performance. Cumberbatch manages to remove Turing and Sherlock from each other, although not very far, selecting a slight stutter over Sherlock’s rapid speech. The script also moves him in the direction of Asperger’s instead of being a high functioning sociopath.
Knightley also shows acting talent that surpasses most of her performances before this, playing a smart woman that has to deal with her place in society. This helps her understanding of Turing and the two work well together.
At this point however, sadly the positives run out. As much as I enjoyed the two lead performances, I was disappointed by the script. There are two aspects of Turing’s story that make it worth telling and interesting. The fact that he was helping the world with his work as much as he did but had to hide his true personality at all times is inspiring and shocking at the same time. The revolutionary work he conducted in math and most importantly computer technology is the other aspect, and this is almost non-existent in the film. The actual logic behind the code-breaking is so scarcely hinted at that the one moment that shows us the deciding idea that makes Turing’s machine work falls flat. If we don’t know what the problem was, how are we supposed to care for the solution? “The Theory of Everything”, where the science was clearly secondary but still explained effectively, managed to balance a personal story and give us an impression of the great scientific mind that is Stephen Hawking. “The Imitation Game” goes all-out on the personal drama and neglects the mathematical genius that is Alan Turing. The math is not even that hard to explain, Numberphile on Youtube managed it in two ten-minute videos. The filmmakers could have easily cut the mostly inconsequential childhood scenes and added some more cryptography.
My second criticism is historical inaccuracies. I do not expect a movie to be one hundred percent accurate, there has to be a balance between reality and storytelling. But once again, “The Imitation Game” is unbalanced, overplaying Turing’s social problems, hinting at autism where by all accounts there was none. This also puts it in danger of enforcing the association of gay with weird, acting against the films agenda of tolerance. When the Bombe machine (which was not named “Christopher”) finally works, the film leaves reality completely, forgetting that Turing was not the only real person in this film and takes a lot of creative licence with the supporting characters. This actually happens over the course of the whole movie, in an effort to create villains within the story.
Morten Tyldum’s direction, which I am only mentioning because he got nominated for an Oscar, is mostly boring. The performances he gets from his lead characters are great, but the rest of his direction is merely standard, with not one outstanding scene or interesting shots.
All in all, the film is still good, but honestly, I think Alan Turing deserves more than a good movie, his story deserves a great movie, with a better script and a better director. I can only imagine what this film would have been with a director who actually knows how to make science and personal drama interesting, someone like David Fincher for example.
Tuesday, 27 January 2015
“Wild”, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, stars Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed, who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in the early nineties in an attempt to get her life back under control. Along the way she deals with multiple issues plaguing her, including the death of her mother, played in flashbacks by Laura Dern.
To say that Cheryl Strayed had fallen on hard times before the hike that makes up most of this time would probably be an understatement. After her mother dies, she begins a downward spiral towards heroin addiction and meaningless sex with everyone who asks. At last, she is shocked out of her self-induced anaesthesia by the divorce from her husband and an unwanted pregnancy. On a whim, she decides to walk herself back to the woman she once was. So she picks up a book about the PCT and starts out on her journey back to self-respect.
What makes her so interesting is that underneath all the drugs, numbness and grief, she is a very smart woman. She is well-versed in poetry and when the divorce papers are filled out, she gives herself a new last name, “Strayed”, which seems like a very self-aware form of punishment.
All this has to be the basis for Reese Witherspoon’s performance, but she actually takes it even further. She goes to all the dark places that her back-story needs her to go, shown in flashbacks, which I’ll get to later. She also does all her own walking, which is a lot, even though through the magic of movie-making, it’s probably not quite the original 1,100 mile trek. It’s an incredibly physical performance and we can see it in every facet of Witherspoon’s performance. At the beginning of the journey, we meet a woman who is as down as you can get. A motel-clerk takes her for a drugged-up hooker and she’s not that far off. But soon the tired face of a drug addict is replaced by the tired face of a woman who goes to her limits, thinks about quitting and then pushes on.
Reese Witherspoon has won an Oscar for her role in “Walk the Line”. Her performance in that movie was great, but this is better. That becomes clear from the first scene, which wipes away the image of the All-American darling Reese Witherspoon. I don’t want to spoil anything, but when that scene comes around again, it’s even more haunting.
Laura Dern gives another strong performance, although I would have thought that she would get her Oscar nomination for her role in “The Fault in Our Stars”, which is similar but with more depth than this one.
Jean-Marc Vallée follows up his success from last year, “Dallas Buyers Club”, with a movie that is quite different. Where “Dallas Buyers Club” was a conventionally structured film with a few contemplative moments thrown in, this is all-contemplation. The idea of most biopics is to give the audience a way into the head of the subject and “Wild” is a masterpiece in that aspect. Flashbacks are often sequenced into films, mostly to provide necessary information, as one block. The flashbacks in “Wild” are less exposition, more stylistic device. The reason for Cheryl’s trip is never much of a mystery and is not treated as such. Instead, the flashbacks are shot and organised in a way that basically lets us read Cheryl’s mind. She has a lot of things to work through and we get to see that process in a very organic way. For example her inner monologue would list things that she misses about the civilized world, like good food, friends and the Minnesotan snow (the last one maybe not so much). The next thing we see is a short clip of her in a restaurant with a friend. Then we see her hike on, but the memory has surfaced and then gets expanded upon, showing us an integral scene of the past. It works like a charm, we always get to see what triggers the memory that follows. The film is episodic in that way, but at the same time, all these things are on her mind at all times, illustrated by the way short flashback moments are intercut with each other. The flashbacks are also not limited to complete scenes, sound bites and music are used to similar effect.
I could write so much more about this film, it impressed me on all levels. It manages to take the audience on a journey and doesn’t fall into clichéd territory. No easy third-act redemption to be found here. It’s also very funny in some places. It’s an impressive film and the greatest performance of Witherspoon’s career.
Wednesday, 21 January 2015
Friday, 16 January 2015
So the Oscar nominations have been announced and I'm super excited to see who is going to be taking away statues this year. I'm not going to go into full detail, but there are a few things I would like to address.
First, very little appreciation for "Nightcrawler", which is a shame. If you've read my top ten list of last year's movies, you know that "Nightcrawler" took one of the top spots. With only eight out of ten possible nominations for best picture, I don't really see why it was left out. An almost even bigger shame is that once again Jake Gyllenhaal gave a transformative performance and is getting no credit from the academy. However, it's an undeniably strong category this year, so it didn't really come unexpected. And from what I'm hearing about "Selma", the Martin Luther King biopic, the omission of David Oyelowo seems to be much more controversial.
Second, "The LEGO Movie" got snubbed for best animated feature. In a category in which one out of four eligible movies get a nod, the Academy managed to leave out the one movie that most Oscar predictions actually handled as the big favourite. I watched it again tonight and it is simply an amazing movie with great style, a lot of fun and even more heart. Apart from all that, it also manages to perfectly capture the abstract concept that is "playing with LEGO's". This is probably the one thing I am most disappointed about.
It was not the only disappointment though, because Billy Boyd did not get nominated for his amazing contribution to the final "Hobbit" film, the original song "The last Goodbye". This song captured the feel of the whole "Middle-Earth" saga, and the journey of making it, so well that I had it on repeat for days. Them feels...
But at least "Everything is Awesome" got nominated, so that's my new favourite in this category.
Apart from that, I can only say that it's a really strong field this year and that I can't wait to see all of these movies. As I haven't seen any of the best picture nominees yet, I can't tell you who's my personal favourite right now, but I've got a feeling that "Whiplash" might end up there. I don't know if it will win, but by the way the awards season has been shaping up so far, it seems to be between "Birdman" and "Boyhood". We will have to wait and see, on the 22nd of February.
Tuesday, 13 January 2015
Monday, 12 January 2015
Or I'll just try to challenge some of your arguments, like a sane human being. Maybe I can change a few minds.
Now, I want to make one thing clear from the get-go. All film is subjective and if you didn’t like any movie in “The Hobbit” trilogy, I have no problem with you. However, I know a few people that refused to even give the movies a chance, based on arguments that I can only describe as shaky.
Because if you tell me that “The Hobbit” is simply a cash-grab and then you go watch “Taken 3”, then you’re an idiot. But one at a time.
Beware, there are spoilers down below, because if you argue against the movies and haven’t seen them and read the book, I am already not listening to your arguments. And when I say “and”, I mean it.
“The Hobbit” should never have been three movies!!!
There’s a few things to say about that. First, if your argument is that because “The Hobbit” is one book it should be one movie, then that’s a very arbitrary thing to say. Why would that be the case? Where does it say that no book can be adapted as two movies? Or three?
Have you read the book? Now, at this point I want to just talk about a book being adapted into more than one movie, not specifically three movies, that’s later. First let’s talk about how much actually happens in this three-hundred page book.
For example the whole process of killing the dragon takes up two and a half pages. By the way, the black arrows are set up on those pages as well. And that’s the graphic description of it. Our heroes, the dwarves learn of it from a bird. As a screenwriter, that poses a problem. When our company of dwarves set out to take back a mountain from a dragon, it’s heavily implied that they will kill said dragon. But that’s not how the book goes. So not only do you need to build a strong action scene based on one page, which becomes the opening of “Battle of the Five Armies”. Also, the actual heroes have to have some confrontation with the dragon, preferably coming out on top. So you have to add an action scene taking place in Erebor. And that is just on the surface. You also need to have a dragonslayer that has enough character for audiences to latch on to.
There are more examples like this, several scenes have to be extended to be cinematic, and a lot of things have to be expanded upon simply because Bilbo falls asleep halfway through the action.
What I just did for the death of Smaug can be done for a lot of the other scenes in this wonderful book. That alone puts it from one to two movies at least, if you ask me. And just to give you a hint of what else needs to be addressed when you adapt this book, a lot has been made about the lack of characterization for the dwarves in the films. Eight out of thirteen dwarves in the book are characterized only by the colour of their hood.
So now we have our two “Hobbit” movies, and it’s great, two fast-paced adventure movies with great action and maybe you can even fit in some characterization for a few characters between all the action. What puts it from two to three is the connective tissue between the two trilogies. Now in my personal opinion, if they had done it right, this could have been two movies, but I like it as three as well, for one last reason.
We have never before seen an adaption from a book that actually committed to putting more to screen than is in the book. There is a reason for that, because rarely does a book have enough backstory to warrant that. Middle-Earth has that, and more, which arguably has presented the filmmakers with problems in the editing room.
Anyway, this is all I’m going to say about that, there’s more where that came from though. The second argument that people usually bring is a little bit easier.
It’s just a cash-grab!
The Hobbit trilogy had a budget of 745 million dollar. That is not how you do a cash-grab. You do not try to revolutionize cinema by introducing high frame rate, no matter how well that worked. You do not hire some of the most successful actors working in Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. What you do is take something cheap that people liked and copy it. That is what the entirety of the Horror genre seems to be about these days and I don’t doubt that we will see that in the upcoming “Taken 3” as well.
Apart from that, accusing a film of trying to make money seems like an exceptionally stupid thing to do. After all, the movie business is just that, a business. We are lucky to have a lot of people in the filmmaking business that love what they are doing and are ambitious about delivering quality movies, but the people that are actually responsible for getting these movies to our screens are running a business.
To take this back to the “Hobbit” films, the two people who were most responsible for this movie are certainly Guillermo Del Toro and Peter Jackson. These two are some of the best examples in the business right now for filmmakers for whom art is the primary objective, not success. Look what Jackson has done with his success after “Lord of the Rings”. He made “King Kong”, a passion project for him. Del Toro has committed huge amounts of his time lately to get the sequel to “Pacific Rim” made. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
So that’s it, those are the arguments against “The Hobbit” that I have real problems with, simply because they are unsubstantiated and target the making of the movie more than they talk about the actual films. They are also often simply repeated without any other thought put into them, especially the first one. Most of us have never written a screenplay or made a movie, yet we indulge ourselves in judging the work of people who put a lot of work into something. With that I don’t want to say that there are no bad movies or that we can’t say so. But when we start forming our opinions before we’ve actually seen a frame of the movie, that’s something we should be careful about. “The Hobbit” is a great book but it’s not exactly written in a cinematic way. In adapting it, Jackson and his crew had to compensate for a lot of things such as Bilbo’s tendency to fall asleep when stuff starts going down or the lacking characterization of Thorin’s company. And remember that “The Hobbit” was Tolkien’s first step into Middle-Earth, a world that he fleshed out much more with “The Lord of the Rings” and his other works.
Fun fact by the way, “The Lord of the Rings” is only three books because of the publisher. Tolkien wrote it as one book in six parts. In the making of the “Rings” trilogy, the project went exactly the same way the Hobbit did. First it was one movie, then two, and then it became a trilogy.
Saturday, 10 January 2015
A lot of people on the internet (and I’m not talking about reviewers, I mean people on the internet) have levelled a lot of criticism against the Hobbit films. Some of it’s warranted, a lot of it isn’t. Critics have been a lot more positive towards them, with each of them being above 60% on Rotten Tomatoes. Personally I’ve liked all of them, not only for the opportunity to revisit Middle-Earth, but also because I genuinely think that they are very good movies.
The most important thing to get out of the way is the unfairness of comparing these movies to “The Lord of the Rings”. The Rings trilogy are some of the greatest movies ever and all one can ask of the “Hobbit” trilogy is that they deliver something that is worthy of the original trilogy, something that justifies making these movies, just like the “Star Wars” prequels didn’t. Because of this, I want to start by giving you a short list of things that these movies did that enriches what the Middle-Earth saga was before. I’ll try to respond to some of the more specific points of criticism next time.
Riddles in the dark
Technically the pivotal moment of the whole trilogy, chilling out at the beginning of the third act. The one ring passes to Bilbo and he becomes the ring-bearer, later passing it on to Frodo, starting the defining chapter of the third age of Middle-Earth, the war for the ring.
This is one of two scenes where it’s not even debatable, this is on the level of the original trilogy. It brings back Gollum, the most amazing character from the original trilogy, once again portrayed perfectly by Andy Serkis. Freeman and Serkis play off of each other perfectly and despite the action fuelled scenes that follow, Bilbo and Gollum playing a high-stakes game of riddles is the emotional climax of the film.
Don’t wake a sleeping dragon
Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins
I’m on record saying that I find Martin Freeman’s performance to be one of the best in the complete Middle-Earth saga. Bilbo Baggins is one of the most interesting characters in Middle-Earth and throughout these movies, they even managed to enrich the character.
Bilbo has a multi-layered emotional arc. He is away from home, on an adventure for the first time and has to find his courage. Also, he tries to earn the respect of the dwarves and we as an audience see the influence of the ring.
The movies have found this wonderful way into the relationship between Bilbo and the dwarves through Bilbo’s love for his home. For this, some key scenes have been added, like Bilbo’s conversation with Dwalin when he is thinking about quitting the company. (Which is something you can bet I will bring up when I’m addressing the whole 3-movies-question)
So these are just three aspects of the prequel trilogy that I was very happy to see. I truly believe that it would have been a crying shame had we never got to see these things play out on the big screen. Things that make these films not only good movies, but also worthy parts of the Middle-Earth saga. These are also part of the reason why I think that ten years from now, nobody is going to care that they made the prequels into three parts, 48 fps and that they had the audacity to earn any money from them, those dirty cash-grabbers. The simple fact is that all three films have been good. They are not masterpieces, but they are great adventure movies, always entertaining and made with care and love.
Tuesday, 6 January 2015
Saturday, 3 January 2015
Number 9: “Entourage”
Ant-Man comes out on July 23rd and there's an ant-sized trailer right here with a full sized one coming out in three days.
Number 7: “Birdman”
The film comes out this month, on the 29th, and a trailer's over here.
The film comes out February 19th and there's a trailer over here.
The film comes out over here on November 5th.
The film comes out April 30th and the amazing trailer is right here.